Snow Wolf Family and Me – part two

Snow wolf2Snow Wolf Family and Me episode 2
First Aired on BBC2 21:00 30th December 2014

Presenter Gordon Buchanan
Series Producer Ted Oakes
Producer Anwar Mamon
Director Anwar Mamon
Assistant Producer Patrick Evans

Due to the nature of this program this episode obviously contains spoilers of the first episode so if you haven’t watched it I would suggest you do so before reading further. There is a link to the earlier episode in my comments on Episode One. There is a link to Episode 2 below, my comments come after that link, click on the picture with Gordon & a wolf in silhouette to go to BBC iPlayer, I’m sorry but this will only work if you are in UK or Ireland.

Ellesmere Island, Canada, is an uninhabited island where the Wolves have had no contact with humans. The landscape is wild to say the least and Winter lasts four months of night. A pack of Wolves need to feed themselves during the light months to survive the harsh winter.

The pack under study have four adults, two yearlings and three pups. The alpha pair Romulus led the other four older Wolves hunting at least twice a day to feed the pups. At the end of the last episode when the team had to leave the pack had been gone from the den for twelve hours leaving the pups alone.

Click on the picture below to view Episode 2, there are spoilers below the image.

Snow Wolf Ep2Gordon and the team returned in Autumn to find the den abandoned, now inhabited by a Weasel. Six weeks had passed and there was no clue to whether the pups had survived. However while Gordon was gone scientists had put a radio collar on one of the Wolves, GPS traveling showed that that Wolf, at least, was still alive.

Following the GPS signal Gordon located the pack, with all nine members alive. It was now determined that one pup, the more dominant one, was male and the other two female. The male he named Banjo, the females Lola and Meg.

Gordon renewed his relationship with the Wolves, the male yearling named Scruffy was still very happy to approach very close. It was the pups though that Gordon was most interested in. To survive the long cold Winter they needed to be very well fed.

Remote cameras were put out, in the last episode the remote cameras became expensive chew toys for Scruffy. Watching the pups at a Musk Ox carcass he noted that Scruffy appeared to be the main ‘childminder’.

Gordon commented on how little discord he saw between the Wolves. From what I have read and watched though I have become aware that related Wolves rarely have serious fights. We are fart to familiar, it seems, with domesticated dogs that are not familiarised properly with other dogs. In my opinion many owners need educating in how to train their dogs, all breeds of domesticated dogs should be able to associate well with not only other dogs but also other domesticated species.

The pups were now accompanying the rest of the pack in their daily travel. Gordon was surprised by the amount of travelling the pups were doing at this age. Perhaps though it is the harsh environment itself that makes it essential the pups learn the required skills in their first year. Only the fittest will survive so far North.

Instead of the remote control car used in last episode Gordon required the use of a quad-bike and helicopter to keep up with the wide ranging pack. Watching the Wolves crossing the terrain it took them minutes to cover land that it took Gordon two hours to cross. The Wolves are truly adapted to their environment. The least confidant of the pups, Meg, was noticeably slower than the others and lagged behind. Her brother, Banjo, was however clearly doing well.

Scruffy was proving to be an adept hunter catching a Lemming, that he ate on his own, and an Arctic Hare, that initially he allowed Banjo and Lola to nibble on before taking it away from them. After Banjo being very persistent he eventually shared his kill with his brother. It struck me that Scruffy was not denying his younger siblings food but reinforcing on them that they had to work to eat.

The Wolf is an apex predator, top of the food chain. Without humans the only animal that threatens a Wolf is another Wolf. Gordon encountered a larger pack with larger adult Wolves in an area that the GPS had recently given the location of the Romulus and his family. The pack had strayed in to enemy territory looking for Musk Ox and it appeared they had stumbled across a kill by the others. Our pack was no where in sight.

When Gordon located the pack again Meg was missing. All the evidence suggested that when fleeing the larger pack Meg just simply was not fast enough. It seems most likely the enemy pack had killed her. The pack were behaving differently to usual and would not allow Gordon to get close. They were grieving it appeared, this isn’t placing human emotions on an animal. Wolves are very family orientated intelligent animals, losing a member affects the whole pack.

I know that some people think that this kind of program is too intrusive. I disagree, care is taken to not influence what happens in the wild. For example the use tracking collars in no way impairs the animal in hunting or moving around in its territory nor do other individuals seem to pay the collar any attention after first seeing them.

I value these programs as they raise awareness of the issues that threaten wildlife. The main threat is still the reduction of habitat, something our Snow Wolf Family are fortunately currently not worried by. This program has brought Gordon as close to wild Wolves as we have been for perhaps ten thousand years. Remarkable footage.



2 comments on “Snow Wolf Family and Me – part two

  1. Tanya Paine says:

    Really loved the snow wolf documentary but wondered did they remove the collar off the wolf? When they finished filming and did it nor upset the wolves when the collar was put on?

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