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My connection with the Wolf

I became interested in the wolf as a result of my spiritual awakening. My spiritual path is the Red Road and follows the oral teachings of some of the people from the tribes of North America. In recent years such people were described as Native Americans. The current term to describe the people is 'First Nations'.

Those of you that have found your spiritual paths may be of the opinion that there is no such thing as coincidence; that things happen when they are supposed to. I'm a firm believer in that concept.

I have had some traumatic life experiences and was getting some healing from a man I knew in Bristol who first nudged me onto my spiritual path. It was like he turned on the light to a part of me that had stayed in the shadows of my persona, awaiting the right time to come forward. It would seem that 1995 was the time.

It wasn't until the breakdown of my relationship with the mother of my children that I took a conscious step forward though as 'life' seemed to be constantly in the way of my spiritual development and work seemed to take precedence. So in 1998 I found myself being referred, by Derek Thompson, to a 'Native American Circle in Cornwall' that was being taught the old ways by a group known as 'Ehama'. Members of Ehama would come to parts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland (and other parts of Europe) and hold ceremonys of healing for people that had the courage to face their issues. Ehama would also assign a teacher to work with a specific set of groups. It was at one of these meetings that I met WhiteEagle. We sat and talked for hours. Finding a common thread in our journeys. In time she gave me my 'Medicine Name' or 'soul name': Snowmoon Wolf. I was born on the 1st of January and that's around the time of the Fullmoon in January. SnowMoon Wolf simply translates to a wolf born in January.

Around this time I was reading and learning about the wolf. It seemed to be coming up in all sorts of areas in my life. Kind of like it was knocking at the door and saying, 'It's time. This part of you has to live now.' So I read words from different tribes and spoke to people and started to learn about the Wolf and in doing so, I found that I was learning about my nature. To some of the tribes, the wolf is a teacher, warrior, pathfinder and protector of the people. I found that circumstances started to conspire for me and that I found myself travelling to different places to meet wolves and spend time with them. All of the wolves that I was meeting were captive or hand reared at this time.

My first close encounter was with three timber wolves in the Upper Peninula area of Michigan in winter. I was eating a hurried lunch in a bakery, following a photoshoot in the snow covered lands there, when the locals told me about Timber Wolf Wilderness Adventures and the fact that they might let me photograph the wolves that they used as ambassadors to educate humans about the true nature of the wolf. I met Cheanne and Len, who kindly agreed to let me photograph the three wolves: Chakota, Kenai and Nahanni. In those days I was shooting with a camera that had a fixed lense and focussing through the wire fence was difficult. Cheanne saw that I was having problems and asked me if I wanted to go in with them. I thought wow! Yes please!!

 

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Cheanne went in first and I followed. Chakota seemed to be the alpha of the three. He came up to me and started head butting me and pushing me around. He then came right up to me from the front and rested his huge fore paws on my shoulders and stared down into my eyes. I remember feeling peaceful and understood for the first time in my life. He then licked my face and got down. I walked into the inner enclosure then and spent as much time as possible watching and photographing the wolves there.

My last close up wolf encounter was with a hand reared wolf in the Dartmoor Wildlife Park. Her name is Lobo. I saw her in an enclosure on her own next to the main wolf compound. Lobo possessed no wolf etiquette, as she wasn't reared by a pack. During the time of feeding, whether free or captive, wolves have a heirarchy and the alpha pair always feed first, followed by the rest of the pack in order of their rank within the group. When the wardens fed the wolfpack at this location, Lobo would dive right in and start feeding. This led to the pack attacking and injuring her a few times. The wardens made the decision to segregate her for her own safety as she didn't seem to be developing an understanding of the situation and the required etiquette.

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I used to go in there and sit with her. I'd talk with her and she'd come and play; doing things like leaping on me or nipping at the hair on the back of my neck. Most of the time we'd just sit close to eachother and share the silence. They moved her on to a different location and changed her name. She became the alpha female in a pack with two hand reared males and gave birth to cubs. I've not been to see her yet but I'd like to one day.

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In between these times I did a two year project at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie. I'd go up three or four times a year and spend a few days monitoring and photographing the pack. The boss at the time was Jeremy Usher Smith. A good man. He was very knowledgable about wolves and I felt that I could be open with him about my observations. Some of my close up images helped to identify health problems with the pack. It was a good time and there was a sense of fulfillment as I'd sleep in one of their bothies listening to the song of the wolfpack echoing through the night.

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free spirits

My most amusing time spent with wolves has to be the visit to Longleat in July 2008. They had five wolf cubs. One female and four males. Those of you that have had groups of puppies and watched them grow together will be aware of the play and merriment that they can generate. The similarity ends there. These cubs were being tended by a wolf pack. Every adult member plays a part in the care of their cubs not just the alpha pair that bred them. I saw scenes unfold before my eyes that had me laughing so hard that the images came out blurred on the camera (owing to camera shake). Five bundles of fur chasing and fighting eachother; the odd one going up to a resting elder, closing it's jaws on an elder's tail and pulling, another pushing the line and being disciplined as its little face was held in the jaws of the elder, while one its siblings lay down on its back and opened up in the classic position of submission toward another elder.

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I also witnessed the caring and devotion of all the elders to their young as one of the cubs went to the pond. I assumed that they were concerned in case the little one ended up going right into the water. One of the elders tenderly clamped his jaws around its body and pulled it back to a safe location. When the little one tried to go back to the water, he clamped his jaws over the little ones head and led it back to the pack, while another of the elders cleaned the youngsters coat. As they walked pack to the pack, the youngster nuzzled its carers and, as an outsider to wolf packs, I can only assume that the look on its face was one of feeling secure and content.


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You can view all of my wolf images on the following pages:

Amber Souls

Wolves in Scotland

Wolves

 


Wolves in the UK

So what about wolves in the UK? Once there was a time when the wolf roamed these lands but humans hunted them to extinction through fear, avarice and superstition. Research shows that the wolf died out around the following times in the following areas: Wales - possibly in the 12th century; England - somewhere between1500-1550; Scotland - between 1680-1769; Ireland - in between 1710-1770. It is my belief that the wolf suffered an injustice of catastrophic proportions mainly owing to people's fears about losing livestock. Humans made up negative stories that misrepresented the nature of the wolf which resulted in a grave injustice - the near extinction of wolves on most of the Earth..

Stories were circulated portraying wolves as menacing demons and to this day their undeserved reputation still lives on in stories such as 'Little Red riding Hood' and 'Three Little Pigs'. News stories of humans attacked by wolves are very rare but when they emerge they are sensationalised. In my experience of wildlife watching, the only time that you're in danger of attack from any species is when you either startle it or go near it when it has young one with it. Wolves are terrified of humans and quite rightly. They have their own way of communicating and passing on their culture to their young. How do you think they would define a species that systematically wiped out all their kind from parts of the world? I concede that there will always be a rogue element in any species and that a wolf now and then may have hunted a human but nowhere near the numbers of instances that those opposed to the wolf's existence would have you believe. One of the main cases of European Wolves attacking humans in the past was rabies, a disease which is now believed to be virtually non existent from the continent of Europe.

Where the wolf had become accustomed to human presence there have been many reports of attacks on children over the last few centuries. Apparently India had lost over 273 children to wolf attacks but this is hardly surprising when you consider that most of these children were tending herds of animals and that wolves will generally hunt smaller beings (calves etc) and would view a child the same way it views a calf. There were reports of parents sending their children out and reporting them killed and gaining compensation from the governing body. Unlike the wolf we don't eat young prey do we? Like lambs, kids (young goat) or calves?

Humans seem to have the need to touch and own things. Their curiosity is equaled by that of the wolf and herein lies the problem. If wolves are kept distant and not fed, directly or indirectly by humans, they should keep their distance from human communities. Another cause of wolf attacks in the past would have been the result of human development of areas, more small settlements etc that would result in the loss of or relocation of prey. My feeling is that this can be seen in the situation that the Red Fox faces in the UK. We've carried on building and expanding our communities but have failed to take into consideration the effect these developments have on habitat and the food chain of our wildlife species. Did you ever wonder what might have happened if farmers left a small percentage of their food for wildlife? It's a sad fact that where a fox once hunted a rabbit or other animal, it's prowess in now reduced to being able to rip open a bin liner and scavenge what we are indirectly feeding it.

It's very easy to scape goat a species when we are not willing or able to look at the behaviour of our own species. Humans war on each other and will fight for their territory, as will a wolfpack. Some people will exploit and abuse younger humans in very serious ways (sexually and emotionally), others will kill humans for no reason whatsoever. In my view, human society is breaking down in terms of morals and acceptable behaviour. I have seen no evidence of any of this when watching a wolfpack with cubs. They operate like a family. Every wolf cares for the young not just the alpha pair. There is a great deal of tolerance demonstrated by all of the adult wolves when the cubs play with or around them. A wolf cub doesn't go hungry, the whole pack eats. If a wolf cub steps out of line it is effectively disciplined by any of the adults of the pack. When the pack sings its song, the young howl with the old and the bond within the pack is strengthened, day by day. A wolf pack doesn't abandon its young, there is always at least one adult member of the pack keeping an eye on the young. Perhaps humans wouldn't have lost so many children to wolves if humans had exercised the same level of protective care as the wolves employ over their cubs. Perhaps humans wouldn't have lost young to other humans if they followed the example of the wolfpack.

 

Reintroducing the Wolf to Scotland

There has been much talk on the subject and I believe that it will happen. The Red deer population is out of control and has to be culled in very expensive ways. The large number of Red Deer affect the fauna and flora in terms of size and reproduction. The more deer there are the less good quality food is available for the species. As a result the species does not grow to similar sizes as recorded in years gone by. As they eat most of the flora and fauna, this affects what other species can eat or live with, by or within (ie smaller animals and insects) and all these species have a role to play in the bigger picture. A picture within which the part of humans is overstated. Whatever your religious or spiritual belief, humans once lived in balance with nature; now we are a pestilence upon the Earth. Every animal has a role of some sort. The wolf has a place in Scotland. I believe those areas should be sectioned off and nature should be allowed to thrive.

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Whatever the fears of humans or concerns over the right to roam. If they're sectioned off, they can't get to you; though in truth, I doubt that they would come near humans. If you want to roam, perhaps you could pick a different area.

 

Balance

Wolves are a necessary part of the ecology and humans will have to learn to live in balance with nature rather than as an arrogant species that's trying to decide the fate of the Earth with the irresponsible damage that it has done to the planet to further materialism and the acquisition of natural resources through activities such as war.

Chief Seattle said: "Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. "This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. "One thing we know: our god is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator."

I feel that these words of his from centuries ago are more relevant in this modern age that values materialism more than balance. People need to manage themselves better, in the same way that they would manage a collection of animals and one of the key areas that need to be addressed as soon as possible is human over-population.

If humans learned to live in balance with and in proportion to other species of life in a given area, balance would be restored.

It's time that the howl of the pack was heard again in the UK as a free species, fulfilling it's role in the natural order of things.

Mitak' Oyasin

Villayat 'SnowMoon Wolf' Sunkmanitu



Mitak' Oyasin are words of the Lakota Nation that means 'All My Relations' and symbolises the connection between all living things.

 

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