Depending on where you live, your wild neighbors are probably on the small side: squirrels, geese, songbirds, maybe the occasional deer. In some parts of the United States, though, we’re lucky enough to share our land with North America’s native carnivores. Wolves, black bears and mountain lions have played essential roles in our ecosystems for millennia, but they’re often maligned, misunderstood and hunted just for a trophy. These creatures have rich social and family lives, and we here at the Humane Society of the United States think they’re worth protecting for that reason alone. We’ve gathered some surprising facts about these species to share with you, and we hope you pass them along to help others see these animals in a new, more compassionate light.
Wolves support new mothers with gifts of food
Just like you might swing by your neighbors’ house with a casserole to welcome their new baby, members of a wolf pack sometimes drop by a new mom’s den with gifts of food. Once the pups are old enough to leave the den, Mom moves them to a more open spot nearby where the pups can play and hang out with other members of the pack.
To protect songbirds, you’ve got to protect native carnivores
By hunting deer, elk and other prey (including individuals who are sick), mountain lions and wolves keep those populations healthy and in check. Otherwise, these species become overpopulated and overgraze on fragile ecosystems, making them inhospitable to small mammals, amphibians, birds and even butterflies.
Wolves have strong social structures
Although we’re used to hearing the term “alpha male” to describe a wolf pack’s leader, Amanda Wight—HSUS program manager for wildlife protection—notes that the scientific community now prefers the terms “breeding male” and “breeding female.” Think of a wolf pack as a family unit, with the breeding pair at the head, a litter of pups and often a few adults from the previous year’s litter. All the members depend on one another, and if a member of the pack is killed, the pack often falls apart or has trouble finding enough food.