Far be it from me to make fun of fake news. The dregs of society swear by it and there is no law against stupidity.
But as someone who has for years photographed and studied wolves in YNP, I feel obligated to point out an inaccurate post that has been making the rounds on FB.
“A wolf pack: the first 3 are the old or sick, they give the pace to the entire pack. If it was the other way round, they would be left behind, losing contact with the pack. In case of an ambush they would be sacrificed. Then come 5 strong ones, the front line. In the center are the rest of the pack members, then the 5 strongest following. Last is alone, the alpha. He controls everything from the rear. In that position he can see everything, decide the direction. He sees all of the pack. The pack moves according to the elders pace and help each other, watch each other.”
Despite the image’s popularity, the above description of the inner workings & hierarchy of a wolf pack is a lie.
The photograph was taken by Chadden Hunter and featured in the BBC documentary Frozen Planet in 2011, with its original description explaining that the “alpha female” led the pack and that the rest of the wolves followed in her tracks in order to save energy:
“A massive pack of 25 timber wolves hunting bison on the Arctic circle in northern Canada. In mid-winter in Wood Buffalo National Park temperatures hover around -40°C. The wolf pack, led by the alpha female, travel single-file through the deep snow to save energy. The size of the pack is a sign of how rich their prey base is during winter when the bison are more restricted by poor feeding and deep snow. The wolf packs in this National Park are the only wolves in the world that specialize in hunting bison ten times their size. They have grown to be the largest and most powerful wolves on earth.”
Yes, this photograph is “real” in the sense that it shows a pack of wolves in Wood Buffalo National Park, but the pack is not being led by the three oldest members and trailed by an “alpha” wolf. If you were hiking with your arthritic grandfather in deep snow, would you send him out front to “break trail” for you?
I should additionally point out that wolves do not “take care” of the old & infirm. (Whales & elephants do, with limitations.) A member who can no longer contribute equally to pack dynamics is kicked out. There is no compassion in Canis Lupus’ ruthless struggle for survival. Nature is “red in tooth & claw.” (Alfred Lord Tennyson)
Facebook “wisdom” is pernicious. I don’t care if it helps elect a deplorable, just don’t mess with my wolves.
Lamar Canyon Wolf, YNP
© John Hayes 06/2012
“Do the Oldest and Weakest Wolves Really Lead the Pack?”
A photograph of a wolf pack is commonly shared with an inaccurate description of the behavior of wolves.
‘Nothing on this FB page is real’: How lies become truth in online America
A new message popped onto Blair’s screen from a friend who helped with his website. “What viral insanity should we spread this morning?” the friend asked.
“The more extreme we become, the more people believe it,” Blair replied.
“No matter how racist, how bigoted, how offensive, how obviously fake we get, people keep coming back,” Blair once wrote, on his own personal Facebook page. “Where is the edge? Is there ever a point where people realize they’re being fed garbage and decide to return to reality?”
🙂 🙂 🙂