Wolf Vocalization & Communication Research

  • Track 140:19
  • Track 151:10

          So! What is it that we actually do?

We believe that we have identified eight specific howls that I am able to replicate with voice.  We also believe that each of these howls contain a specific meaning and are used as the basis for communication between individuals and packs members.  By utilizing these eight calls in a sequence and in proper order, we hypothesize that we can tap into the verbal capabilities of the wolf and perform vocal human to wolf interaction and communication. 

In order to prove this hypothesis, we conduct experiments in the field in which a human caller initiates the perceived call in the suspected order and sequence that should make sense and can be readily interpreted by wild or captive wolves.  If our hypothesis is correct, we should be able to decode information from the graphs and use this information to predict vocal response, dicate movement and manipulate behaviour from the receiving wolves with greater levels of accuracy.

To begin a session, I start with the basic "social call" which consists of a long drawn howl.  The social call begins with a rapid rise in octave and frequency at the start that slowly tapers through the plateau and drifting to a silent ending.  This is the call most heard in group/pack howls and used by novice (and professionals) hoping to hear a response from nearby packs.  It is most effective for enticing a reaction from pups and juveniles.  This call is an "introduction" howl.  It simply states "I am content".  It does not say "I am a wolf", as many believe.

A similar reply or a "locator call" (Where are you?) should be heard.  Or, a "caution or warning call" (Keep out!) may be delivered to discourage any further engagement or encroachment into the already occupied territory.  If no response is received, I would present with a "greeting" call (Greetings!  I too am a wolf) which is a bark, followed by a pause and then a quick rise, short plateau and rapid taper to ending.  Often, this call will elicit a response from wolves of Gamma and Delta status as well as the juveniles and pups that are still locked into the "learning" stage.

Once vocalized contact is established, a more complex sequence of calls will be introduced into the conversaton.  I can expect to hear more aggressive "warning and/or caution" calls being delivered by the responding pack.  Similar to the greeting call, these are often confused by both novice and professionals alike.  Warning and caution calls are more direct and are delivered with intent and a greater tone of aggression which increases in intensity as the session progresses.

Eventually, I will introduce more aggression into my calls, defying the cautions and warnings given to me by the defending pack.  This may include an agressive "trespassers" call conveying my intent to enter regardless of the warnings, thus provoking more aggression towards my imposing behaviour.  I have to be careful not to come across as being more powerful in both strength and numbers.  Too much aggression and I lose them.  Too little and I oppose no threat and will be deemed as not worthy of the energy expelled in chasing me away.
Depending on seasons, packs will allow others to cross their territory. Perhaps, wolves have an understanding of seasonal hardship and therefore, become more tolerant during these times.
Throughout the session, I listen for the what I refer to as "dominant separation". As I engage in vocal bantering with whom I presume to be the Alpha or Bata, I listen for a response to the right of left of my verbal opponent. When this happens, I will hear a second call from the opposite side. Once this occurs, I listen for change in the vocal of the dominant responder. If I stand my ground and reply in defiance with a "challenge call", I can expect the entire pack to begin their trek towards my location for the final showdown and confrontation. And believe me when they start to come towards our call position, they come fast!
Once the pack has arrived at our location, I will interact vocally with a series of "warning; caution; locator and/or challenge" calls. This consists of of a lot of barking, creating a "vocal smokescreen". The defenders respond and arrange themselves nearer to the preceived trespassers. Once the encounter reaches this state and visual contact has been achieved, the process of de-escalation begins. We discontinue the threat and alleviate the stress level by slowly backing down and removing aggression from our responses, resulting in a lowered level of anxiety and returning to a more neutral state for the animals. The wolves then proclaim the victory with yips, yaps, barks and howls and quickly disperse back into the forests. Their boisterous calls fade into the shadows and just like that, the session ends.