Gateway to the Classics: Handbook of Nature Study: Mammals by Anna Botsford Comstock
Handbook of Nature Study: Mammals by  Anna Botsford Comstock

The Wolf

dropcap image HE study of the wolf should precede the lessons on the fox and the dog. After becoming familiar with the habits of wolves, the pupils will be much better able to understand the nature of the dog and its life as a wild animal. In most localities, the study of the wolf must, of course, be a matter of reading, unless the pupils have an opportunity to study the animal in traveling menageries or in zoological gardens. However, in all the government preserves, the timber wolf has multiplied to such an extent, that it may become a factor in the lives of many people in the United States. This wolf ranged in packs over New York State a hundred years ago, but was finally practically exterminated in most of the eastern forests, except in remote and mountainous localities. A glance at Bulletin 72 by Vernon Bailey, published by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, is a revelation of the success of the timber wolf, in coming back to his own, as soon as the forest preserves furnished plenty of game, and forbade hunters. Timber wolves are returning of late years to Western Maine and Northern New Hampshire; Northern Michigan and Wisconsin have them in greater numbers; some have also been killed in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, but their stronghold is in the great Rocky Mountain Region and the Northwestern Sierras, from which they have never been driven.


Gray Wolf

It might be well to begin this lesson on the wolf with a talk about the gray wolves which our ancestors had to contend with, and also with stories of the coyote or prairie wolf which has learned to adapt itself to civilization and flourishes in the regions west of the Rocky Mountains, despite men and dogs. Literature is rich in wolf stories. Although Kipling's famous Mowgli Stories belong to the realm of fiction, yet they contain interesting accounts of the habits of the wolves of India, and are based upon the hunter's and tracker's knowledge of these animals. We have many thrillingly interesting stories in our own literature which deal with our native wolves. The following are among the best:

"Lobo" in Wild Animals I Have Known; "Tito" in Lives of the Hunted; "Bad Lands Billy and the Winnipeg Wolf" in Animal Heroes, all by Thompson Seton; "The Passing of Black Whelps" in Watchers of the Trail by Roberts; Northern Trails by Long; "Pico, Coyote" by Coolidge in True Tales of Birds and Beasts.

For more serious accounts of the wolves see American Animals, p. 277; The "Hound of the Plains" in Wild Neighbors, and page 188 in The Life of Animals, both by Ingersoll. "The Coyote" by Bret Harte and "The Law of the Pack" in The Second Jungle Book bring the wolf into poetry.

From some or all of these stories, the pupils should get information about the habits of the wolves. This information should be incorporated in an essay or an oral exercise and should cover the following points: Where do the wolves live? On what do they feed? How do they get their prey? Do they hunt alone or in packs? How do they call to each other? Description of the den where the young are reared. The wolf's cleverness in eluding hunters and traps.


"Katrina Wolfchen," the Pet Coyote
of Professor Fred S. Charles

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