US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation, edited by L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2003).


U.S. government work.


TRY TO IMAGINE a small group of wolves sitting at a table engaged in vigorous debate. These wolves are from various parts of the globe and are perhaps a bit more scholarly than most. In fact, they are especially knowledgeable about the biology of that notorious two-legged species, Homo sapiens. They have been brought together to document their relationship with humans over the last several millennia. Pause for a few moments and consider what they might say ...

Perhaps the wolves' discussion would chronicle the evils of the human species, including details of atrocities committed against lupine ancestors down through the centuries. They might discuss the bizarre workings of the human imagination and the hopeless confusion of fact and fiction about wolf relationships with humans. The discussion might also express admiration for the way early humans respected wolves and imitated their living in family bands, maintaining pair bonds for years at a time, communicating in complex ways, and hunting cooperatively. The effects of advances in human technology might be detailed. The recent and long-awaited legal protection for wolves and the soaring popularity of wolves among some humans would certainly deserve mention. After an exhaustive review of the wolf-human relationship, the wolves might finally conclude that it has taken so many forms, depending on time and place, that generalizations are impossible.