As Halloween approaches and the days get shorter, you might find your thoughts drifting to spooky creatures of the night. From vampires and bats to werewolves and raccoons, nocturnal creatures, whether factual or not, carry an element of fear and mystery. Many myths surround creatures of the night and a very popular nocturnal animal with many myths to its name is the Gray Wolf. Due to its beauty and mystery, throughout human history, many stories have been told of these nocturnal animals. In preparation for Halloween, and to make you a more knowledgeable admirer of wolves, please enjoy the following Gray Wolf myth-busting revelations!
Common Myths about Wolves
1. Myth: Wolves howl at the moon. Perhaps nothing is more quintessential of the West than the image of the wolf with his head up during a long howl with the full moon in the background. Although wolves can howl when the moon is full, scientists have found no correlation between the phases of the moon and the howling of wolves. Instead, scientists have shown that wolves howl to communicate with their pack, to scare off other animals, to attract a mate, and to mark their territory.
2. Myth: Wolves make good pets. Despite their beauty and outward similarities with domestic dogs, wolves are wild animals and do not make good pets. Wolves are inherently wild and despite domestication efforts, never lose their “wildness,” making them a potential threat to their owners and themselves. Wolves are also extremely social animals and separating them from their pack to live domestically with humans sets them up for a life time of loneliness.
3. Myth: Wolves live in Colorado. Unlike the other wolf myths, this is a hard myth to bust because scientists don’t really have the answers yet. The closest established population of wolves is located in Wyoming, however, wolf scat has been discovered in Northwestern Colorado and two wolves died in the state of Colorado in the years 2004 and 2009. Due to their great ability for long-distance travel, it is very possible that wolves have established themselves in Colorado but there is not enough data yet to confirm this suspicion.
4. Myth: Wolves are dangerous to humans. Despite their ferocious growl and piercing eyes, wolves should not be a concern of humans. Anecdotally, wolves tend to be very timid around humans and try to avoid any interaction. According to the International Wolf Center, in the 20th and 21st centuries, there has been no human fatalities due to wolves. The International Wolf Center adds that in Wolf Country a person has a “greater chance of being killed by a dog, lightning, a bee sting or a car collision with a deer than being injured by a wolf.”
Molly Schreiner is the School Program Coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center and she can’t wait to meet real live wolves at Fright at the Museum!