Green Visions: Distinguishing the wolf from the pack
Wolves have been a presence in the folklore of many cultures across North America and Eurasia for centuries. In many cultures a singular personality is ascribed to wolves, and that description has often led to misleading, general assumptions; in European fairy tales, for example, it is not “a particular, large-sized wolf with a bad attitude,” but rather “The Big, Bad Wolf.” Perhaps phrases like “pack mentality” have further removed ideas of individuality from wolf populations.
But much like domesticated animals (e.g. dogs) that exhibit individual personality traits, new research is showing that grey wolves (Canis lupus) in the wild also have personalities that differ within their group, and therefore may individually affect the eco-systems in which they live and hunt.
We speak with Dr. Joseph Bump, an associate professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota. He is the lead author of the recent study published by the Voyageurs Wolf Project, a University of Minnesota-led team that has been studying individual wolf behaviors in the wetlands of northern Minnesota. From their observations and data of how wolves hunt beavers, they have found that certain wolf personalities are more successful hunters and therefore have a bigger impact on wetland alteration than other wolves in their midst.