Wolves Enlightened


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WOLVES are gregarious animals who mostly live in packs. A pack STARTS when a male and a female wolf meet each other and start going around together. As a mated pair they find a territory to settle on and raise cubs most years. Their cubs stay with them until they are old enough to leave home, usually by the time they are three years old, and conditions are right to start a family or pack of their own. Thus you can view a pack as a permanent core of a mated pair plus their continuously dispersing offspring.

Command & Control

Command and control in a wolf pack is in many ways similar to a human family. It is the parent wolves who exercise authority. Because they dominate the behaviour of the other wolves in the pack they are often referred to as the alpha male and the alpha female (see Alpha Wolf).

The alpha wolves are the oldest and most experienced members of a pack and it is generally to every family member's advantage to do what they bid. The alpha wolves tend to start and guide most family activities. They lead the pack when travelling, decide when and where to hunt, are usually the first to attack strange wolves, and tend to attack the most vigorously when encountering a hostile wolf pack.

Alpha Privileges

Control of breeding rights is one of the key privileges held by alpha wolves. Alphas are usually the only wolves in the pack to breed and they actively prevent other adult wolves in the pack from breeding. If the other adults want to breed they usually have to leave their pack and set up elsewhere.

Another important privilege concerns food. When a large prey animal is brought down, the alpha wolves control access to it. They make sure they and their dependent cubs eat enough before their older offspring start feeding seriously. In lean times the other adults may do better to quit their pack and fend for themselves. However, wolves tend to feed amicably when food is ample.

An Early View Of Pack Social Organisation

The first studies of social relationships within a wolf pack were based on unrelated captive wolves, because wolves in an enclosure are far easier to observe than wild free-living wolves.

In a captive group of unrelated wolves there is a tendency for a social - or 'dominance' - hierarchy to emerge. The idea of a hierarchy was first described for captive wolves in 1947 and tended to overshadow other attempts to understand the social interactions within a pack. This early view of a wolf pack is that the wolves are forever struggling to get further up the social hierarchy, ultimately to the alpha position, while holding in check everyone else (see Early View).

The problem with this early view of wolf pack society is that it is based almost entirely on observations of captive wolves. Captive groups of wolves are usually collections of individuals from different origins and backgrounds, and their living conditions are artificial and imposed on them. Studies like these may reveal insights about wolf pack society, such as range of flexibility and adaptability, but are limited in what they can tell you about the social relationships and behaviour of naturally forming wolf packs in the wild. It is a bit like observing only the inmates of prisons when you are trying to understand human society, then extrapolating your findings to free-living people.

When wolf packs were seriously studied in the wild they turned out to have a familial structure and the emphasis of a dominance hierarchy was exposed as somewhat over done. However, the term 'alpha' wolf has stuck and is still used to describe the highest ranking male and female wolves of a pack.


How Packs Originate

The cubs of a pack disperse when grown to find a mate of the opposite sex and raise a family of their own. A dispersing young wolf probably explores a number of areas searching for signs of wolf pack occupancy. An area covered in wolf scent marks will be occupied by a wolf pack. An area free of wolf scent marks will be vacant and might make a good territory. A young wolf keeps searching until another lone wolf of the opposite sex is found doing the same thing.

When a male and female are attracted to one another they court and attempt to form a pair bond. Courtship is not always successful, canids have preferences, as humans do, but if they remain together they will travel about and try to set up a territory. If they succeed they will mate and a new wolf pack will grow.

Factors Influencing Pack Size

The smallest pack is a newly bonded male-female pair. Pack size grows according to the number of cubs a pair bear, how many cubs survive to adulthood, and how long offspring stay with their parents. Wolf litters average five or six cubs per litter. So if the pack breeds most years and just some of the young survive and do not disperse, a new pack can increase in size quite quickly.

Pack size also depends on time of year. New cubs are born in spring, so pack size is at a maximum in the summer when the cubs are old enough to join the adults on the hunt and keep up with them. Packs reach minimum size in the winter and before the next breeding season when death and dispersal of wolves from the pack reduce their number.

Food is an important factor. The more food a pack can obtain, the more cubs survive and do not die of starvation or ill health. Packs tend to have more members where prey are large and numerous and can therefore support more wolves. Packs break up and individuals disperse or packs do not grow large in the first place when there is insufficient food.

Wolf density and the corresponding availability of space for packs to establish territories in are important factors. When wolf population density is low (other things being equal), it is a good time for adult offspring to leave their natal packs and make their own way in life, so pack size will decrease. Conversely, when a region is saturated with wolves, adult offspring tend to delay leaving home and pack size grows when more cubs are born and in turn delay living home.

How Big Are Wolf Packs?

In places in Europe packs can average about five to seven wolves. They are under heavy human control superposed on existing environmental pressures, so larger packs are rare. In Minnesota, the US state with the largest wolf population outside Alaska, packs are usually around five to ten strong. Packs in Alaska commonly number six to twelve wolves.

The biggest wolf packs are reported in Alaska and across the border in Canada, where occasionally exceptionally large packs of around thirty wolves are seen. However, the world record may go to a pack of 37, including 21 cubs from three litters, in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, not long after wolves were reintroduced there. That is a peculiarly large pack.

The Arctic might generally claim the smallest packs, presumably because of the scarcity of food.

Pack Break Up & Splitting

If one or both parents of a pack die their pack may fall apart. When a pack breaks up, the space it occupied becomes vacant and may be taken over by neighboring packs or by a new pair of wolves wanting to establish their territory.

As noted above, a wolf pack forms when two dispersing wolves meet and breed. Another, though less common way, for a pack to come into existence is when a pack splits into two new packs. Pack splitting might happen when a pack is too large for all the wolves to get on well with each other. Or a pack might split if it is to large for all the members to get an adequate meal even after successful hunts. Another impetus for pack splitting is when a strange wolf joins a pack and breeds with one of the pack's adult offspring. Then when the pack gets too large the two sets of families part company. When a pack splits, the original territory may be divided between them.



The adoption of an apparently strange wolf by a pack is known to happen from time to time. Why should a family of wolves take in a lodger? It is probable that some incoming wolves are actually related wolves returning home, having failed to disperse successfully. However, some incomers are probably unrelated strangers.

How could a pack benefit by an adoption? A small pack might benefit with an additional member on the hunt or for defending its territory from encroachment by larger neighboring packs, provided the food supply is adequate to feed another mouth. An adoption might work by introducing new genes from an unrelated wolf to counter the affects of any inbreeding in a long-lived pack. Or an unrelated wolf might prevent the pack from falling apart by being there to take over as the main breeder if one of the pack's parents dies.

Whatever the benefits are of an adoption they have yet to be established. But there are disadvantages too. One is mate stealing. An alpha wolf will have to be vigilant to prevent a stranger from mating with his or her partner.

Advantages Of Pack Living

Ultimately, the unconscious goal of a mated pair of wolves is to survive and reproduce to propagate their genes into future generations (just like humans and other creatures). They do this by raising their cubs to sexual maturity so that their cubs also have the chance of reproducing; after all, it is their parents' genes that they are carrying. Living in a group aids this objective. However, it is likely that there are several immediate reasons for living in a pack and a wolf stays with the pack or leaves it depending on the particular balance of costs and benefits affecting the individual.

The following are some possible reasons why it is advantageous for an individual to live in a group.

Teaming up with several adult wolves makes catching large prey easier and more frequent. Although there is no strong evidence to support this speculation. Even so, packs are larger where prey are more obtainable.

A pregnant wolf is unlikely to raise her cubs successfully without the support of another wolf to bring her food when she is confined to the den nursing her cubs.

Cubs stand a better chance of surviving when more wolves contribute to their care, such as bringing them food and guarding them from danger.

The young adults in a pack have the advantage of a protective environment where they learn the skills of survival before they disperse. Also, if they leave their natal group and then are unable to find a niche for themselves, they might return home to a safe haven to wait until conditions improve when they can try again.

There is the possibility that one or both of a pack's alpha wolves might die, in which case one of their offspring might take possession of their territory. Supplanting a parent could be a good strategy for a wolf. It is less risky than dispersing into a hostile world, especially when there is a glut of wolves in the region and no available space to elbow in a new territory.

A belligerent neighboring pack might take over your territory by killing off the members of your pack if they greatly outnumber you. So more wolves working as a pack are better able to defend their territory, and therefore their food source, from large neighboring packs.

However, disadvantages begin to accrue with too many wolves in a pack. Some of these drawbacks have been covered under 'Pack Break Up & Splitting' above. One way or another the time can come when wolves leave their pack to take a chance and strike off alone to make their own way in life. Dispersal and lone wolves are discussed in How Wolves Reproduce.

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CARNIVORE related to the jackal and domestic dog. All wolves are characterized by powerful teeth, bushy tails, and round pupils. Certain characteristics of the skull distinguish them from domestic dogs, some breeds of which they otherwise resemble. Two species of wolves are recognized: the gray, or timber, wolf, once widely distributed in North America, Europe, and Asia; and the red wolf, which now occurs only in Texas and the southeastern United States. An adult gray wolf measures up to 1.6 m (6.5 ft) in length, including the tail (which is less than half the body length), and may weigh up to 80 kg (175 lb).

The animal is red-yellow or yellow-gray, with black patches above and white below; black or brown timber wolves also occur, and those in the far north may be pure white. The red wolf is somewhat smaller in size and usually darker in color. Wolves are equally at home on prairies, in forestland's, and on all but the highest mountains.

In the winter they travel in packs in search of food. Small animals and birds are the common prey of wolves, but a pack may sometimes attack reindeer, sheep, and other large mammals, usually selecting weak, old, or very young animals for easier capture. When no live prey can be found, wolves feed on carrion. They also eat berries.

The den, or lair, of the wolf may be a cave, a hollow tree trunk, a thicket, or a hole in the ground dug by the wolf. In the spring, females have litters of one to eleven pups. Adult wolves sometimes feed young pups by regurgitating partly digested food for them. The pups normally stay with the parents until the following winter but may remain much longer. Parents and young constitute a basic pack, which establishes and defends a territory marked by urine and feces.


Larger packs may also assemble, particularly in the winter; the pack leader is called the alpha male, and his mate is the alpha female. As social animals, wolves exhibit behavioral patterns that clearly communicate dominance over or submission to one another. The communal howling of a pack may serve to assemble its members, communicate with other packs, or advertise its territorial claims, or it may be simply a source of pleasure. Visual and scent signals are also important in communication.

Although wolves are still abundant in eastern Europe and in Asia, only remnant populations now exist in western Europe, and their numbers in the Americas also have been greatly diminished. They are fairly abundant in Alaska and Canada, but significant remnant populations of wolves south of Canada occur only in Minnesota and Mexico; smaller numbers exist in several western and mid-western states. Under the Endangered Species Act, the gray wolf is listed as a threatened species in Minnesota and as an endangered species elsewhere in the United States outside of Alaska.

The decreasing numbers of wolves are the result of encroachments on their territory by humans, who have long regarded wolves as competitors for prey and as dangerous to livestock, pets, and people. However, few, if any, healthy wolves have attacked humans, whom they instead try to avoid. Wolves are valuable predators in the food web, and their decimation has led to the overpopulation of certain other animal species in various areas.

There are active efforts to reintroduce wolves to national parks in the United States, although such efforts are controversial. Coyotes have hybridized with some red wolves. An attempt to reintroduce red wolves to parts of North Carolina has involved identifying red wolves that were not part coyote; the success of this project is not yet clear. In 1995 and 1996, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced Canadian gray wolves into Yellowstone National Park despite protest from ranchers and some biologists. The reintroduced wolves are producing more offspring than expected. When ten breeding pairs reside in the region for three years, the gray wolf will be taken off the list of endangered species in the northern Rocky Mountains. Wolf biologists estimate that this goal may be met by the year 2002 without the transplanting of additional wolves from Canada. Scientific classification: The wolf belongs to the family Canidae. The gray, or timber, wolf is classified as Canis lupus. The red wolf is classified as Canis rufus.





Gray Wolf

The gray wolf is one of approximately 38 species belonging to the family Canidae, which includes the coyote, jackal, fox, and dog. This family is believed to have originated in North America 54 to 40 million years ago during the Eocene epoch. The gray wolf, also called the timber wolf or white wolf, is distributed across northern North America and Eurasia. It is found in a variety of habitats including mountains, plains, deserts, forests, tundra, and taiga.


There were once at least thirty different subspecies of wolf. Most have become extinct. About five subspecies survive today. In England, the last wolves were wiped out by about 1500, a few still live in eastern Europe, India, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Middle East. No one knows how many survive in Russia and China. Most wolves in North America are found in Alaska and Canada and hunters, from whom most of our knowledge of this shy creature comes from, say they are now almost impossible to find....

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PUPS are born completely blind and deaf (but have a keen sense of smell), depending on the their mother and other members of the pack. The whole pack takes care of and raises the pups (non-breeding females produce milk and males compete to baby sit).

Usually four to six pups are born together. This is called a litter, and the pups in a litter are called litter mates. Pups are born inside a den. A den is sometimes a small cave or a hole dug out of the ground.

The den must be big enough for the mother and her pups. It shelters them from the weather and protects the pups from other animals that may want to hurt them. Packs sometimes use the same den year after year. At other times, they make or find a new den each year.

Wolf pups at this age may be preyed upon by Golden Eagles, Bear can also prey on young pups. There are several records of a number of adult wolves decoying bears away from their pups' den until they left.

Gestation Period

Pups grow inside their mother for about 63 days before being born. At birth they weigh only one pound, and their eyes are closed. Pups grow quickly. About 12 to 15 days after they are born, they open their eyes. By two weeks of age, the pups can walk, and about a week after that, they may come out of the den for the first time. At first, they live only on milk from their mother.



After birth the female wolf will lick the fetal sac from the puppy's head (she will also swallow all of these membranes), this allows the pup to take its first breath. The placenta attached to the pup by the umbilical cord will be delivered along with the pup. The mother severs the cord and eats the placenta (eating the placenta provides a valuable meal when she is unable to hunt).

The female wolf will lick the puppy dry and encourages it to nurse. The pup will instinctively move to the warm underbelly and nuzzles around to find a teat. The mothers mammary glands secrete colostrum, a watery milk which contains important antibodies. During nursing the mother will clean the pups and stimulates them to urinate and defecate by licking the genital region. She swallows all of their excretions, keeping the birthing area clean and odor-free.

Stages of Development

10 - 13 days: the eyes open

3 weeks: the milk teeth appear, they start to explore the den

4 - 5 weeks: short trips outside the den, begin to eat meat

6 weeks: moving up to a mile from the den (with adult wolf)

6 - 8 weeks: pups are weaned, traveling to rendezvous site.

12 weeks: begin to travel with the pack on hunts (with adult wolves)

15 - 28 weeks: milk teeth are replaced

7 - 8 months: begin to hunt with the pack


Pup mortality ranges from 30% to 60%. Pups die from diseases, malnutrition and starvation, life in the wild can be difficult. Wolves being very social animals are known to bury the dead pups, In R.D Lawrences' "In praise of wolves" pack members "mourn as deeply as might a human family".


The Early Years

In a few weeks (4-5 weeks), the pups start eating meat. This is brought to them in the stomachs of the adult wolves. The pups lick around the mouth of the adult, and the food comes back up into the adult's mouth. This sounds terrible to us, but wolf pups love it!

All the wolves in a pack help take care of the pups. When the pups are very small, other pack members bring food to the mother so she does not have to leave the den. When the pups are a little bigger, pack members "take turns" bringing them food, playing with them and even "baby sitting." Once the pups are about eight weeks old, they leave the den and start using "rendezvous sites." These are meeting places where the wolves gather to sleep, play and just "hang out." Until the pups are old enough to go with the adults, (when pups are six months old, they look almost like adult wolves. Around this time, they start hunting with the rest of the pack) they stay at the rendezvous site. Often, one of the adult wolves stays with the pups to watch over them.

Wolf pups love to play. They chase each other and roll around the way dog puppies do. Many of their games appear to be a sort of practice for the things they will do as adult wolves. Pups have been observed playing with "toys" like bones, feathers or the skins of dead animals. They "kill" the toys over and over again and carry them around as "trophies." As they get bigger, they begin to hunt small animals, like rabbits. This is all good practice for the day they join the pack for their first real hunt for large animals.

Eye Color

Most wolf pups are born with blue eyes, which gradually change to a yellow-gold color by eight to sixteen weeks, though sometimes their eyes can change color much later. Occasionally, a mature wolf will be found with blue eyes.

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WOLVES will eat almost anything they can catch. They usually hunt in packs but sometimes might be on their own. A pack of wolves can take down animals much larger and stronger then themselves. Wolves are very intelligent creatures, maybe the most intelligent animals besides humans.

Why Wolves Hunt

Wolves are strict carnivores, meaning that they only eat meat. To stay alive all animals require to eat some sort of food to provide energy and nutrients for their body. Wolves do not kill for sport, but for survival.

What Wolves Hunt

Wolves hunt just about everything that will provide a meal for them. Depending on the area in which they live and the time of season they hunt everything from large birds to large mammals to small ones. For more information on what wolves hunt and eat, look at the wolf feeding page.

Some of the things that wolves hunt include.








Wolves usually prey upon the sick, weak, and old animals that they come across. It is much easier for them to hunt these animals then it is a full grown healthy one. By killing off the weak animals, wolves help strengthen the herd of which they take their weak prey from. Old or unhealthy animals can be a burden to its herd. For example, an aged caribou eats food that other caribou need to raise their young. A sick elk could infect other members of the herd. Wolves eliminate such animals performing an important natural function.

When Wolves Hunt

Wolves hunt at any time day or night. Wolves hunt when they are hungry but if they are not successful they can go without food for many days and even weeks.

Where Wolves Hunt

Wolves usually hunt in packs. Each pack has its own territory in which it hunts and lives. The pack defends and guards this territory from other intruding wolves. The territory size depends on the availability of prey. If prey is scarce, the territory may cover as much as 800 square miles (2,100 square kilometers). If prey is plentiful, the area may be as small as 30 square miles (77 kilometers).

Some wolves are not in packs, these wolves are called lone wolves. They hunt by themselves while wandering around. They usually target smaller, weaker creatures to hunt. At some point the lone wolf might join another lone wolf and form its own pack to hunt with.

How Wolves Hunt

At the beginning of the hunt the members of the pack gather together greeting each other with howls. These howls will warn off other wolves in the area to stay out of the packs territory. The pack will then roam through their territory until they find prey. After finding and choosing a particular animal, they move in on it from the opposite direction the wind is blowing. This prevents the prey from smelling the wolves coming, becoming alert, then running away. The wolves will quietly close in on the prey, sometimes in single file. Soon they will break into a run and the chase begins.


If the wolves are able to catch their prey, they attack the rump or sides of the animal. Nipping and biting they try to wound and weaken the animal. Most of the bigger animals wolves hunt have horns on their heads. These horns are used for defense against such animals as wolves. When attacking the wolves will bite at areas away from the head of the prey avoiding the sharp horns. After the animal has been weakened the wolves will take the animal down by grabbing it by the throat or snout. Wolf hunts can last only a few minutes or as long as a few hours or more.

After the hunt, the wolves will gorge on the kill if it was successful. They have large stomachs, enabling them to eat 20 pounds (9 kilograms) of meat or more. If the hunt is not successful the wolves will continue on searching for new prey, maybe one that is weaker, providing an easier kill. Wolves can go without food for weeks at a time.

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A lone wolf is a wolf that lives by itself rather than with others as part of a pack. Lone wolves are typically old specimens driven from their pack or young adults in search of new territory[1]. Instead of openly challenging the leadership of the pack leaders, most young wolves between the ages of 1 and 4 years leave their family in order to search for a pack of their own.

Some wolves will simply remain lone wolves; as such, lone wolves are usually stronger, more aggressive and far more dangerous than the average wolf that is a member of a pack. They have difficulty hunting, as wolves' favorite prey are large ungulates, and it is nearly impossible for a wolf to bring one down by itself (hunting on their own can be done, as lone wolves are naturally stronger and some specialize in hunting moose on their own).

Instead, they will hunt smaller animals and scavenge. Sometimes, a lone wolf will find another lone wolf of the opposite sex, and the two will start a new pack.


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MYTH: Wolves are dangerous to humans.

FACT: You stand a better chance of getting hit by a meteorite than killed by a wolf. Although wolves are large, powerful animals that could kill humans, they do not. According to a 2002 study about wolf conflicts with humans, there is no documented case of a healthy, wild wolf killing a human in the United States. By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate between 10 to 20 people are killed and 4.7 million attacked each year by man's best friend, the domestic dog.

MYTH: Wolves will eliminate or substantially reduce prey species.

FACT: Wolves and large grazing animals lived side-by-side for tens of thousands of years before the first settlers arrived. Recent studies on Yellowstone elk and wolves have found that weather and hunter harvest affect elk declines more than wolf predation. In fact, wolves often enhance prey populations by culling weak and sick animals from the gene pool, leaving only the strongest animals to reproduce. Food availability and weather regulate wolf populations. When their prey is scarce, wolves suffer too. They breed less frequently, have fewer litters, and may even starve to death.

MYTH: Local economies in the northern Rockies are based on livestock production, and jobs will be lost if wolves are restored.

FACT: Ranching is a minor part of the economic base of the northern Rockies . For instance, in the counties around Yellowstone National Park , livestock production accounts for less than 4 percent of personal income, while tourism-related industries account for more than 50 percent. Moreover effects on livestock are negligible, so effects on ranching jobs will be virtually nonexistent.


MYTH: The Endangered Species Act prevents the control of wolves that prey on livestock.

FACT: In portions of the northern Rockies and Southwest, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) designated wolves as "experimental, nonessential" populations. This special designation gave landowners a limited right to kill wolves caught in the act of preying on livestock on private property and increased the ability of FWS to remove or destroy problem wolves. Since 1978, wolves, listed as threatened in Minnesota, have been managed under a special regulation that controls individuals that kill livestock and pets.

MYTH: Wolf recovery on public lands will preclude other land uses, such as logging and mining.

FACT: According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, very few land use restrictions have proven necessary to facilitate wolf recovery in Montana and Minnesota . The service reports that land use restrictions are necessary only if illegal mortality of wolves occurs at high levels.

MYTH: Most people in the U.S. oppose wolf restoration.

FACT: Numerous polls taken throughout the United States consistently demonstrate that more people support wolf recovery than oppose it. In fact, a 2002 quantitative summary of human attitudes towards wolves found that 61 percent of the general population samples had positive attitudes towards wolves.

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The wereanimal belief or legend is universal. In the European and American cultures, the predominant theme is that the werecreature is a wolf. In other cultures, there are were- panthers, werejaguars and werebears. Some societies believed that the person shape shifted and appeared to be the animal while others believed the person became the animal.

During the Middle Ages, people in Europe believed in werewolves. Some believed the creature was a wolf whose body was possessed by a demon. Others believed the devil put the person in a trance and transported the soul into a wolf's body. Another theory was that a demon got into a wolf's body and charmed the person into believing that he or she committed savage acts that were revealed in dreams. Another theory believed that the person actually changed into a wolf and that the devil substituted a human form in the werewolf's place.

The majority of werewolf cases come from Europe. They believed the wolf was bloodthirsty and cunning and the animal was greatly feared. Between 1530 and 1630, there were 30,000 cases of werewolves recorded in France alone. People in Normandy believed in lupins or lubins, wolf like beings that talked at night in graveyards in an unknown language. They would flee from humans, but they also dug up graves and ate human bodies.

In court documents, the testimony did not vary much. The person made a pact with the devil. They were given an ointment that transformed them into a wolf. Some were given a wolf pelt for protection.

Over the centuries, ideas began to change. Werewolf experts believed that the victims suffered from what they called lycanthropy. The victim was usually of less than average intelligence and might have been under the influence of hallucinatory drugs or delusions and believed he or she actually became a werewolf. This was often accompanied by sadistic cravings. Beliefs and legends of those who saw the werewolf might have made them think they saw a snarling four legged beast. The mind is a powerful thing.

During fits of lycanthropy, victims actually believe they are wolves and may run around, as if on four legs, snarling, growling, howling and barking. Some may desire human flesh and commit murders. This is rare in "modern" times. During the 1600s, in Luc, Switzerland, men began to walk like dogs and bark. The cure was a magical herb hung around their necks.

Some medical theorists believe werewolf sightings are those of people who have porphyria, a rare disease. The tissue of the hands and face is destroyed. They also suffer from lesions and are very sensitive to light. The combination of the disfigurement and the photosensitivity may cause some of them only to go out at night.


There are also psychological theories. Victims could be suffering from schizophrenic delusions. Another theory is that they are driven by subhuman urges and they wish to escape and, in their minds, become animals to they can fulfill these desires without guilt. Lycanthropy is considered to be a mental illness in which the victims are driven to kill. Two psychiatrists, Frida G. Surawicz and Richard Banta believe lycanthropy is a very severe form of depersonalization which can be triggered by paranoid schizophrenia, drug abuse, brain damage or other causes.

Cases and Sightings

In the 1500s, a hunter was attacked by a huge wolf and he cut off its paw. The wolf escaped. The hunter put the paw in his pouch and went to a friend's house. When he pulled it out to show a friend, he found a woman's hand with a ring on it. His friend recognized the ring as his wife's. They found the wife and talked to her, they discovered she had lost her hand. She confessed to attacking the hunter, while she was in the form of a wolf. She was burned to death.

Pierre Bourgot of Poligny was brought to trial in 1521. The trial is recorded.

He was a shepherd and confessed that 19 years earlier, there was a terrible storm and his flock scattered. Three black horsemen appeared. Bourgot told them what happened. A few days later, one of them returned and told him that if he would become a servant of the devil, he would be given wealth and protection. Bourgot agreed.

In the shapes of wolves, Bourgot and another werewolf, Michel Verdung roamed the countryside and committed many savage murders. Their spree ended when Verdung attacked a traveler who fought back and wounded him while in the form a wolf. He loped into the woods. The traveler followed the trail of blood until he came to a hut. He found Verdung in human form having the wound tended to by his wife.

Bourgot, Verdung and a lesser werewolf were executed.

In 1573, a French village near Dole was terrorized. One day, a group of villagers surprised an enormous wolf horrifying a child. They noticed the facial resemblance to a recluse, Gilles Garnier.

They apprehended him and brought him to trial. Garnier lived in poverty and hunger. He admitted to having made a pact with the devil. He was burned to death.

Jean Grenier, a homeless youth, tried in 1603. He confessed to hunting with nine other werewolves. After he was incarcerated, he walked on all fours. He was sentenced to confinement to a monastery.

In 1859, in Bedburg, Germany, a crowd of 4,000 people gathered to watch the execution of Peter Stubb or Stump or Stubbe Peeter. He was described as a wicked sorcerer who, in the form of a wolf, committed many murders over a period of 25 years.

The townspeople were terrorized by what they thought to be a lone savage wolf that occasionally killed sheep and cattle, but showed a definite preference for humans.

Stubb, regarded as a brute, was a woodcutter. When he was caught, he was cornered in a ravine by a large party of hunters and their dogs. He scrambled on all fours, snarling and snapping like a wild animal. He fought with superhuman strength, but was overcome.

During his trial in Cologne, he gave, as testimony, the usual story of making a pact with the devil. He said he was given a wolf's pelt to protect him went he went on his murderous rampages.

1868, French police arrested Jacques Roulet, a beggar. He was hiding in a bush, covered with blood, not far from the body of a mutilated boy. He confessed that he killed the boy when he was a werewolf, a state induced by an ointment.

In a Roman garden, in 1949, people thought they saw a werewolf. They called the police. What was actually seen was a young man, crawling around on all fours and clawing the ground with long sharp fingernails. He was taken to a hospital and confessed that he regularly lose consciousness during the full moon and, when he regained awareness, he discovered he was prowling the streets, compelled by a strange compulsion.

July, 1958, Mrs. Delbert Gregg, in Greggton, Texas, believed she saw one on a night she was alone during a thunderstorm. She had just dozed off when she heard scratching sounds on her screen. She woke up and saw a huge, shaggy, fanged wolf like creature glaring at her through the screen. She grabbed a flashlight and jumped from the bed. The thing ran into bushes. She watched, waiting for an animal to appear, but, the figure of a man emerged from the bushes and walked down the road.

In 1970, four youths in Gallup, New Mexico claimed to have seen a werewolf near Whitewater. It ran alongside the car when the car was driven at 45 mph.

Between July and October, 1973, a number of residents in Toledo, Ohio saw a tall human like figure with a wolf's head. It was said to have red glowing eyes and smelled like limburger cheese.

Werewolves.... Psychiatric disorder on the part of the victim? This is based in fact and evidence exists. Sightings? Could some of them be mass or individual hallucinations? This is possible, however, this does not account for all cases. As a reality we do not understand? Perhaps, this is the best theory. Then, there is the well documented case of the Beast of Gevaudan....


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