Deciphering The Language Of Wolves

Channel 2's Terry Belke introduces us to the "Wolftalkers" in this week's 2 the Outdoors.

Communication was long thought to be a domain ruled strictly by man, but we now know that many species of animals have that ability. Cetaceans, corvids, and canines.  These are all animals that communicate with each other.  There are others, but the question is, are they conveying intent and is there intelligence behind these vocalizations?

"Wolftalkers" founder Bob Andrews believes there is. He has been studying wild canine vocalizations in Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park and elsewhere for more than four decades. He began his education as a teen by howling to coyotes.  His focus changed upon his first experience with a wild wolf.

"I heard two wolves communicating back and forth to each other, and I recognized there was something different there.  The coyotes kind of went to the wayside, and my focus became on wolves.  Then I started listening to what calls were made," said Andrews.

What he found led him on a path that has changed his life, and his insights into wolf communication could go a long way in changing the way we perceive these much maligned predators.

"I realized that there's a language. So we thought, okay, this is important to the scientific community.  I'm a little reluctant to say language.  There's a hierarchy of communication that requires intellect amongst the wolves," said Andrews.

It took years of patient research to decipher the wolves' conversations.

"Say I did a locator call, and I got a reply in the west end of the park.  And I did the same call in the east end of the park, and I got the same reaction back.  I can say this is what I should get back, and now that wolf should act like this.  Then I know I must have made the same call in both areas correctly.  They interpret it the exact same way from two different wolves, so it must mean the same thing," said Andrews.

He uses both the wolves' instincts and their intelligence to his advantage.  He makes them believe there are intruders in their midst.

"They will drop that fear, that instinctual fear of human beings because they think there's somebody in their backyard.  They need to get that person out of their backyard because they're stealing their food source, or they have the potential of getting kicked out of their own backyard.  So, they're defending their territory," said Andrews.

   

Andrews' skill has brought him in pretty close contact with his quarry.

"I'll bring them in until we get a visual, but I have had them come right up and sniff me and bark.  They'll just back off and bark at me, right? We had one night down at Leaf Lake, we were calling down there, and I actually had two packs.  I had one pack at the back bumper of my truck, and I had the other pack on the other side of the highway," said Andrews.

Though he has conducted years of studies, Andrews says his research will hopefully outlive him.  He believes there is much more to learn, and he'll never tire of the experience.

"We're going to go stand in the middle of a logging road in the middle of the night, freezing cold, right? And as soon as you hear that first howl, your heart starts beating, adrenaline starts running, it never gets old. Love it!"

If you would like to know more about Wolftalkers' fascinating research, click here .

© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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