Qualities and Virtues Wolves and Humans Share


By Dr. Michael W. Fox

While people in many states where there are still wolves are debating the pros and cons of hunting and trapping them and some are seeking the de-listing of the wolf from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act still in-place in some states, understanding the nature of wolves may help us reach a societal consensus of unquestioned respect and continued protection for the following reasons. They are based on various in-field reports and my own and research of socialized wolves, their behavior, development and communication.

• They care for their young.

• They communicate cooperativity to survive.

• Offspring learn obedience and allegiance. Have devoted parents, older siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles who nurture and educate them to be courageous but cautious, taking no risks.

• Adults bring toys, various objects for the cubs to play with.

• Cubs learn to read, to decipher scents, interpret sounds, sights, tracks and terrain which they must know to survive.

• Family-pack members share food and defend their own.

• They groom each other, removing burrs in their fur and giving healing licks to wounds.

• They express their intentions and do not conceal emotions.

• They show patience, curiosity, insight and foresight.

• They care for their injured, providing food, and find the lost. • They are loyal and they morn.

• They sing in chorus, harmonizing, and play together.

• They re-affirm and celebrate their social and emotional bonds when they enjoin in extended family reunions or howl across their domain.

• Like us they play and roll in fresh snow and chase snowflakes.

• They perfume themselves by rolling in fragrant organic materials they find on the trail.

• They kill to live, but not for sport.

• They have amicable relationships with other species, foxes and ravens, who clean up their kills.

• Wolf cubs play with ravens flying over them with sticks, teasing them to jump and grab the sticks.

These essential socio-biologically evolved qualities for survival we humans share with wolves, but we kill them for sport and invade their territories then justify their eradication.

Unlike us, wolves naturally control their numbers and provide environmental services that sustain biological diversity and ecological health. But like us they will war with and kill members of rival groups when food-resources and territory are limited: they know hunger and starvation: they suffer hypothermia and when afflicted by sarcoptic mange that destroys their winter coats: and they get physical injuries from hunting large prey and suffer various infectious diseases often transmitted by free-roaming and feral dogs.

Our biological kinship, which parallels in convergent evolution with the wolf, reverberates with the spiritual kinship our wolf-derived domesticated dogs bestow on us as devoted companions and which we have yet to fully reciprocate. We thus need to honor the wolf in the process as an ancestral teacher of survival in our gatherer-hunter past that indigenous peoples around the world acknowledge today in myth and legend.

As Loren Eiseley famously observed, “ One does not meet oneself until one catches the reflection from an eye other than human.” Recognition of these similar attributes of wolves and humans is notable in several indigenous traditions, such as the Shinto of Japan. A good and a bad wolf is seen in human nature and acknowledged as in being in every child and are embraced with understanding so the good wolf is nurtured for the common good and the good of the Commons. This is also evident in Cherokee tradition ( https://www.awakin.org/v2/read/view.php?tid=927) in the story Beyond the Conflict of Inner Forces which addresses how best to treat these two wolves in our own nature.

It is regrettable at this time of writing ( January 2023) that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has failed to relist wolves under the ESA to protect them from the slaughter imposed by some western states such as Idaho and Montana. After millennia of indifference, ignorance and neglect, in recovering our respect for wolves, we will recover those qualities and virtues of our humanity, inherent in the good wolf, as much on the verge of extinction in these times as are the wolves and other endangered species around the world.