Wolf Vocalization & Communication Research

  • Pack Howl1:29

Once a potential site is determined, we attempt human to wolf contact through audio vocalization. We execute a series of call and howls by a human caller and anxiously anticipate a response from local individuals and/or packs, in order to acquire quality audio recordings of vocals.

​Calls of the Wild

Once the voice recordings are completed, the audio is catalogued by species and location. The calls are compared with other recordings in order to examine the similarities and/or differences between individuals, regional packs and/or species.

As far as we are aware, Wolftalkers’ is the only team worldwide attempting to search for coded information which may be contained in the sound of wild and compound kept Canids vocals.  We believe that there is more to a wolf’s howl than just simply a ‘wolf howling’. We look for vocal sounds made by wolves that are presented with directedness, coded with interpretive meaning and delivered with a purpose and intent, which allows for the ability of wild Canids to vocally communicate among themselves and with other related species. Although much of our research remains ‘grassroots’, we believe that we have identify several wolf vocalized calls which will serve to validate and support this/our hypothesis.
Within these writings, we have listed the main calls which we have identified to date. We have tested our theories/hypothesis in a variety of different areas and situations with several wolf species across North America and have concluded that, ‘with the exception of nuance/slight variations from specific species /sub-species and geographical differences among same/similar species, much of our findings hold true and can be replicated from one area to another with same and similar species, with each having equal to and/or same or similar results’. 

For example: 
If we test several calls(species specific) in any given area and repeat those same calls in different  area which is inhabited by the same species of Canidea and conclude with the same results, then it must be agreed that the species reacted equally regardless of geographical and regional differences.
Furthermore, if we replicate the same test of a series of calls from one species to a similar or related sub-species in the same or different geographical regions and acquire the same or similar results, then we must conclude that the species were able to interpret and decipher the calls accurately and responded to the calls as predicted with the same results. 
In order to test our theory, we first had to identify several calls with some degree of accuracy. Next, we needed to apply these calls in a deliberate manner with the human voice and observe how each was received, interpreted and responded to. Once this was completed with favorable results, we needed to anticipate how each call would be responded to by the recipients and then decipher what vocal was required to be returned in order to keep the communication in a state of continuity. In other words, ‘we had to make a call that was understood by other wolves, listen to their reply and respond accordingly’. And then, we had to repeat the experiment in several different geographical regions with the various species.
Finally, to validate communication, the experiment had to consist of a pre-determined human call being correctly responded to by the receiver follow by another human call and again responded to with the appropriate reply by the recipient. If the response was as predicted, then one can conclude that the human call was received and accurately interpreted by the receiver and then responded to accordingly, thus giving validation that a ‘vocal communication’ between human and wolf, did indeed occur.
These are the calls Wolftalkers have determined to be commonly used by wild wolves of various species to communicate with one another.  Each has been learned by Bob Andrews from many years of observation and listening to wild/compound kept wolves interact and through actual events as they evolved and occurred on various occasions.

* Please note: Wolftalkers will not describe the call in detail. Each call was learned from over 45 years of experience listening to and experimentation of/with the vocalization of both coyotes and wolves.
*the use of the word ‘heard or observed’ should be considered interchangeable within these writings*

Social: This is the call that most people are familiar with. It is often heard when a group of wolves gather and begin to howl in what has often been coined as ‘the sing song’. However, we have heard and observed individual wolves emit the same howl while alone or travelling in pairs.

Greeting: This vocal is more apt to be heard or observed when two wolves encounter one another regardless of whether they are from the same pack or not. Also, the ‘greeting call’ is evident when wolves are re-entering the pack. Often observed and heard when an adult brings food back to a denning site for the pups. The ‘greet’ will sound as the adults re-acquaint themselves with one another and then the pups, if old enough, will disrupt the greeting with their wailing, yipping and whining.

Summoning: Quite often heard in the forested areas when a pack is moving from one stationary site to another. For example:  the pack is relocating a denning or rendezvous site. A variation of this call is also emitted when summoning other members to a ‘kill site’ or when dangerous or unwanted guest need to be removed from an area within the territory.

Locator: Heard mostly when a pack of two or more wolves are scouring an area as they hunt. It is a form of keeping ‘vocal tracked’ of the members and individuals in the ‘hunting party’. However, we often hear this call when wolves are coming in close to investigate our call-sites while we are conducting fieldwork and experiments. We believe it allows each member to know the position of each of the other members while travelling thick forest and underbrush.

Trespass: We believe that there are two variations of this specific call. One is sounded when a member encounters another wolf suspected of ‘trespassing’ onto another packs territory and the other is made by the trespassing perpetrator. Although I can duplicate the call with my human voice, to be truthful, I am not sure which one I am doing, the pack member or the trespasser? Either way, it has not caused or created any problems during our studies. The wolves still come in no matter which one I am using. It may be because my voice is always perceived as that of the ‘intruder’.

Caution: This as well as the following call, are also considered to have two (or more) variations. Again I am not sure which one I am using but neither causes any disruption for a session. This call can be expressed as ‘cautioning another member that danger is amidst’. Or, it can be vocalized to caution an intruder that it is wandering close to potential dangerous territory. We hear this vocal often, when wolves are circling our call position during fieldwork experimentation.

Warning: Again. This is another call having two or more variations. This call warns others of dangerous situations or it warns that ‘one has overstepped the boundary of territory or kinetics. And again, we hear this vocal when the wolves are in close proximity to are work station. We have also observed wolves making this call when individuals, packs or pups are perceived to be in danger.
*note: during a fieldwork session, it is the locator; caution and warning call that is expressed most by the study group.

Challenge: We have only heard this call through internet recordings, documentaries and one or two occasions while performing fieldwork studies. It is a call used when ‘things are on the teeter totter’ and it is about to ‘go one way or another’. The reason we try to maintain vigilance in each session and never allow the situation to escalate to this level. It is the ‘final straw’ previous to an attack and must/should be avoided at all costs out of respect for the animals. Therefore, no more needs to be discussed.

The ‘Yip”: Although we have heard this many times, it is a call that I cannot seem to get good recordings of or duplicate with my voice. However, the moment one hears it, everything shuts down. This vocal is usually delivered by an adult and presumably by the dominants of the group. We believe it utilized to ‘evoke silence’ in pups and pack members when ‘stealth’ is required for safety or evasive purposes.

Despair: We find this vocal evident more commonly in compound/zoo kept wolves, pups and the Omega’s of the pack when being ostracised or disciplined by higher ranking pack members. Another variation occurs quite often during fieldwork sessions. We refer to this call as ‘the forest whine’. Also, the call is heard when adult members are lost or pups and juveniles become separated from the elders. It seems to convey ‘nervous tension’.

Distress: Heard in animals suffering from wounds inflicted by being kicked with sharp hooves or bitten. The pups use a ‘yippy’ version when they are lost or have trouble finding their way back to the group, den or rendezvous site. We have witness adult wolf which appeared to be lost/separated from its pack use this call. The animal actually turned in all four directions and delivered this call, once at each direction. 

The Unknown: This is a call that we have recorded (you can hear it on this website) and yet, don't really understand it. Because of the circumstance of the event in which we able to record it back in 2013 (the wolf making the call being about 10 metres from our position), we can only assume that it is a call made with ‘aggressive’ tendencies and intent. Most people don’t believe that it is an actual wolf. I have often threaten to submit it to the ‘Sasquatch hunters’ because this is likely the sound that they believe to be sounding from a ‘Bigfoot’. It’s one of those ‘you know it, when you hear it’ type call.

Note: We do have many more calls recorded and isolated that we are still studying and are unsure of any meaning attachment as of yet. Also, a form of ‘echo locating’ was discovered by Bob Andrews in 2012 which he validated in 2013 through several trial and error experiments.  Wolves use it when travelling in groups to keep every member on course and in tuned with each other.

​​We believe we have identified approximately eight different calls and howls used by various species of wolves, in order to communicate with one another.