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Jim and Jamie Dutcher: Living With Wolves – Six Years With The Sawtooth Pack

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Today’s Guest

Jim and Jamie Dutcher

I’m so excited to introduce to you today’s guests, Jim and Jamie Dutcher – cinematographers and wolf behavioral experts who spent 6 years living in the wild amongst a wolf pack to study their behavior.

Doggy-Dan-Podcast-Show-HEADLINE-Jim-and-Jamie-Dutcher-Living-With-Wolves

In the past, there wasn’t much known about wolf behavior and sadly, popular stories like Little Red Riding Hood, painted a negative picture about how wolves behave in real life. 

Jim and Jamie Dutcher have played an incredible role in getting rid of negative stereotypes associated with wolves and have brought to light just how gentle, shy, and family-oriented they truly are. 

Throughout our talk, they share incredible stories about their time with the wolves and also shed light into the true temperaments, behaviors, and personalities that these beautiful beings embody. 

If you’re curious about the real truth behind the lives of wolves, this is a podcast you don’t want to miss!

You’ll Hear About

  • [01:00] Who are Jim and Jamie Dutcher
  • [03:00] True Wolf Temperament 
  • [07:30] Wolf Enclosure Setup 
  • [14:30] Fascinating Wolf Routines 
  • [17:30] Wolf Bonds 
  • [20:00] Shocking Wolf Encounter   
  • [24:00] Feeding Wolves
  • [27:00] The Potato Chip Story  
  • [29:00] Mourning Wolves
  • [31:00] The Truth About Wolves and Livestock  
  • [35:00] The Unfortunate Truth About Population Control  
  • [40:00] All About The Living With Wolves Organization 
  • [43:00] Dan’s Burning Questions about Sex, Marking, and More.

How You Can Get Involved

Go to https://www.livingwithwolves.org/ and support Jim and Jamie’s ongoing work to save the wolves. You can donate, or buy their beautiful books and continue learning more about the Sawtooth Pack.. 

If you’re a parent or educator then get hold of their learning packs. 

Above all, spread the word about how amazing and beautiful these precious creatures are, and how important they are to maintaining ecological balance.

Links & Resources

Learn more by tuning into the podcast!

Thanks for listening—and again, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on TODT App / iTunes / Spotify to get automatic updates.

Cheers,

~Doggy Dan 🙂

Jamie Dutcher (00:00):

It's really important for people as well. In our pack we had the beta wolf, the sort of second in command, and his name was Matsi. The omega wolf was Lakota. Lakota really would get picked on, especially by the mid ranking wolves. And Matsi, the beta wolf, would actually insert himself into the argument. Physically put himself in between Lakota and the other wolves so that Lakota could get away. They had a friendship that was really quite incredible. None of the other wolves would really seek out Lakota to play with them. But Matsi would kind of encourage Lakota to go off and the two of them would play together. And Matsi really went out of his way to protect Lakota. It's a great lesson for taking the underdog under your wing.

Voiceover (00:57):

Welcome to The Doggy Dan Podcast Show. Helping you unleash the greatness within your dog.

Doggy Dan (01:09):

Hello and welcome everybody to another Doggy Dan Podcast Show. And today I'm super excited. I've got Jim and Jaime Dutcher with us. And they are fascinating people who have spent a long time living with wolves. So let me just briefly introduce them. They've been involved with wolves for nearly 30 years I believe and they're widely recognized as two of America's most knowledgeable experts on wolf behavior. Because basically during the 1990s they lived in a tented camp in Sawtooth mountains of Idaho where they were able to intimately observe the social hierarchy of the now famous Sawtooth Pack. And that six year experience led to the creation of the National Geographic Society book, The Hidden Life of Wolves. It's a book that I've got and fully recommend it. It's absolutely beautiful. As well as four other books and three primetime television documentaries on wolves. So there's not many people that know as much about wolves as Jim and Jamie. They're on the show today. I'm so excited to have you here. Thank you for joining me, Jim and Jamie Dutcher.

Jamie Dutcher (02:17):

Oh, it's a pleasure to be with you Dan.

Jim Dutcher (02:20):

Thanks for having us on Dan.

Doggy Dan (02:23):

It really is my honor. I am such a wolf man. What a way to start. But I really am. I have such a love of the wolves. But I haven't got much experience of having lived with them or being with them. I don't know anything compared to you guys about the wolves. So I'm just going to hand it over to you. Would you be so good as to tell us a little bit about your experiences with wolves? Over to you.

Jim Dutcher (02:56):

Okay. Wolves are very wary of people and they're shy. If you see a wolf in the wild it keeps its distance and then runs away. And to get into the life of a wolf or into a pack of wolves we started with puppies. Bottle feeding them from the moment they opened their eyes so we could create a trust. And then as they grew older we released them into a huge, huge … It was the biggest wolf enclosure in the world. It was 25 acres and in the background right up against it was a 10,000 foot mountain. We were right on the edge of wilderness. Miles and miles from any road or trail or town or house. And we camped with the wolves in tents. We had wood stoves. It got very cold there. It was often zero degrees and even 20 below and occasionally 40 below. The snow was four or five feet deep. Anyway, by doing this we were allowed into a wolf pack and we camped there for six years. And we just noticed during our observations how different each wolf was. The personalities, the characters of the wolves and how they took care of each other and acted not like a pack which sounds ominous, but a family. It was a family of wolves and that's what you see in the wild if you see a pack of wolves. It's a family.

Jamie Dutcher (04:42):

Yeah. It's important to note that even though we bottle fed these wolves from the time they just opened their eyes, it was so that they would trust us and accept us. They were never pets. You couldn't ask them to come. They wouldn't do anything you wanted them to do. You couldn't put a leash on them. All behavior studies that have ever been done on wolves have to be done with captive packs because you just can't get that close to a pack of wolves in the wild to really see what's going on. If you're lucky enough to habituate a wild pack the next time somebody points something at them it might not be a camera. It'll probably be a gun. So we just didn't want to even risk the chance of doing that. And most behavior studies had been done in very small enclosures of only one to three acres so as Jim said we had the largest in the world.

Jamie Dutcher (05:38):

And this really allowed the wolves to open up their lives to us and treat us as just part of their environment. We would have our camera gear out and our sound gear out and they would just keep doing what they were doing and it really allowed us an intimate look at their lives. Because we all know that wolves travel long distances and they bring down large game and they hunt in a pack, in a family. But to get into that family and see how that family is really put together and how they relate to each other was what we really wanted to bring an audience.

Doggy Dan (06:16):

Yeah. I can only imagine how exciting it must have been to have been accepted by the wolf pack or the wolf family and be on the inside. Just for people who are listening to this and trying to get the picture, how long were you actually with the wolves for?

Jim Dutcher (06:34):

For six years. Yeah. For six years. From 1990 to 1996. We had a special use permit from the US Forest Service for the land and had other permits to have captive animals. But at the end we couldn't extend our permits anymore. There's a lot of hatred toward the wolves. So we had to find a permanent home and the Nez Perce Native American tribe in northern Idaho thought it would be a great idea to have the wolves on their reservation. And we set up in another similar situation that we had lived with wolves and they lived out their lives there.

Doggy Dan (07:21):

Oh. Good on the Nez Perce tribe.

Jim Dutcher (07:24):

It was really hard to say goodbye though.

Jamie Dutcher (07:26):

Very.

Jim Dutcher (07:27):

Yeah.

Doggy Dan (07:27):

Yeah. So in the Nez Perce tribe are they in captivity or are they kind of more running wild then?

Jamie Dutcher (07:33):

Well, they were in a similar enclosure. About a 25 acre enclosure. Because the one thing these wolves needed to survive in the wild was a fear of humans and that's the one thing they didn't have. And it was decided when we moved the wolves to the reservation … We had a lot of discussions about how they would live out their lives. And we all agreed that we should do tubal ligations on the females so that they would continue their breeding behavior but they would not continue to reproduce because it was a finite space. In wolf packs you have wolves that want to disperse and there would be no place for these wolves to go. And it was our hope that by the time there was no longer a Sawtooth Pack that there would be a better understanding for wolves and we wouldn't have to keep it going but unfortunately we still have a tremendous amount of work to do.

Jim Dutcher (08:34):

In a wolf pack there's a hierarchy. At the top of the pack is the breeding pair. Alpha male, alpha female. And normally they're the only ones that breed and give birth to pups. The mother digs a den, they're born underground. And the second in command in a wolf pack is called the beta wolf. And then at the bottom of the pack is the omega. They're usually following the pack and the last to eat. But in our pack the omega and the alpha were brothers. And when Kamots, the alpha, died, his brother howled in the night for about two or three weeks letting everybody know about his amazing brother.

Doggy Dan (09:39):

Touches me deeply when you say that.

Jamie Dutcher (09:42):

They're pretty special.

Jim Dutcher (09:45):

Also in the beginning of the project we had an omega wolf. Her name was Mataki. And she would often go off and be by herself because she got picked upon a lot. And it was during a time like this that a mountain lion climbed over the fence and killed this wolf, Mataki. But what was amazing about it … We didn't see this happen. We pasted it together from evidence that we saw. Tracks and fur. Wolf fur way up in a tree. We found her carcass. But what was the most amazing part of it all is how the wolves reacted. It was for me a kind of eureka moment in my life as a filmmaker because I thought I'd go on and do some other films like the mountain lions that I had done and beavers and undersea subjects. But the pack mourned. They stopped playing. They stopped playing for about six weeks. Usually you see play in a wild pack of wolves every half hour at least. They're always playing. Pulling tail, chasing each other. And they stopped howling in the way that they normally howled. They would howl separately and mournfully instead of in a group howl which is punctuated with lively yips and wines and is very exciting.

Jim Dutcher (11:18):

But for them they lost a cherished member of their family and as we would walk through the territory where they lived and come upon the area even weeks and weeks later where Mataki lost her life the pack would become visibly saddened. They would lower their tails and ears and sniff the ground. And you could just see that they were processing the loss of this family member.

Doggy Dan (11:50):

Wow. Very much like the elephants that we see them mourning their lost ones. Yeah. I've often wanted to ask you about the deep emotions of the wolves and their personalities and characters and you've kind of touched into it. Such a rich and varied array of personalities and characters which … Yeah. In many ways did you … As you got to know them did you feel like they were more human? Like they had more human personalities than maybe you first started to?

Jamie Dutcher (12:27):

Yeah. Absolutely. Wolves really are the best of what humans can be. They take care of the young. They take care of older wolves. They won't leave a sick or injured pack member behind. They don't hold grudges. If there's a dispute they have their argument and then everything's fine. Everybody's friends again. And it just … They're really the best of what we could be and we could learn a lot more by watching wolves. You can see a lot of it when you watch your own dogs. You see the different personalities and you see how they interact with each other. Wolves are just … They're this extended family that need comradery and friendship to be able to survive, to be able to bring down large game and raise a family. So when wolves go out on a hunt they will often leave another pack member behind with the puppies as a puppy sitter so they're not left alone. And then the rest of the pack will go out and hunt. It's all shared. All comradery.

Doggy Dan (13:49):

Wow. Something that I talk a lot about in my dog training program is how the dogs have kind of … They have a lot in common with the wolves and a lot what we need to understand is they're not humans basically. They're a different species and they're more connected probably. Well, they are more connected to the wolves than they are to humans in terms of how they behave. And one of the things I touch on is when the dogs return home or when we return home to our dogs, how we kind of need to be aware of our interaction with our dogs. I always say that it stems from the wolves. And when the wolves return from the pack or when they reunite they go through a routine. Did you experience them going through a routine and are you able to talk into the routine of what they go through when they return? Did you find that when they-

Jamie Dutcher (14:40):

Yeah. Their routine is pretty fabulous. First of all when they wake up in the morning they'll all get up and stretch. They don't sleep together in a group. They'll find separate places to sleep. And slowly they'll all get up and they'll all go over to the alpha male and lick his face and say good morning to him. And then they all kind of whine and do these little kind of mock growls and snarls at each other. Just saying good morning to each other. And then they go on with their day. And they would do the same thing to us. We got greeted first thing in the morning. They would all come over. It always had to be the alpha first who came to say hello to us. And if there was a mid ranking wolf who was trying to get in before he did, well that wolf would be put down in a second. The alpha would grab his muzzle and put him down. There'd be a squeal. And none of this is violent. It's their language. Sort of like Kamots saying, "Hey, it's not your turn. You've got to wait your turn." And so we would all get greeted and eventually all the members of the pack would say hello. Just kind of this whining and just excitement.

Jamie Dutcher (16:04):

And the same thing would happen when we would have to leave the enclosure to go resupply because we didn't have running water or electricity. So we had to send our film off. So we'd be away for a day and then come back and we'd get that big greeting. And then it was even bigger because they knew we had been gone. And the best way I can describe it is a warm fluffy tornado with fangs.

Doggy Dan (16:30):

That's brilliant.

Jamie Dutcher (16:32):

They just swirl all around you and they're just like whining and just like, "Oh, I've got to say hi, I've got to say hi." But then once they say hello then they'll go off and do their thing. You can't really repeat it. It's like we've done that for the day so it's done.

Doggy Dan (16:48):

And what's your take on what's going on? Is it just a love, love, love, we love you, we've missed you or do you think there's more going on? Is it to do with the hierarchy?

Jamie Dutcher (16:56):

I think it's a little bit of both. I think they're reinforcing how they feel about us and at the same time they're also reinforcing who's who in the family pecking order. So I think it goes both ways.

Doggy Dan (17:14):

Totally. I mean we've got chickens on our property and I'm always watching the chickens. I fed them this morning. There's a pecking order there. Some of the chickens are in charge and some of them have to wait their turn and some get told, "Hey, I'm eating. Back off. That's my food." This is chickens we're talking about. It's the same with our family. There's an order in our family of who's making the big decisions. Mom and dad kind of making the decisions and our children are just as loved.

Jamie Dutcher (17:42):

Yeah.

Jim Dutcher (17:42):

But it's all built around a bond. And that bond that we see in a family dog, that be so excited when you come home or if something happens to your mate and he or she mourns. Well, a wolf pack, it's about that bond. If a wolf is killed they mourn that wolf. You hear a lot about the lone wolf. That's just a temporary situation where a wolf leaves a pack. A disperser looking for another individual disperser and forming another pack. But what a wolf wants more than anything is to have that bond. To belong to something. To belong to a family. To have its own pack.

Doggy Dan (18:32):

Yeah. Again it's pretty similar to humans in a way. Some of us are alone but if we can find the right pack and the right group it really does amplify the human experience in a good way.

Jamie Dutcher (18:42):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely.

Doggy Dan (18:44):

I'd love to jump onto something which I can't remember whether I saw it or read it but I've made a lot of dog videos. I said this to my children the other day. I said, "Look at the dogs playing. And watch what happens if we all stand and watch them." As soon as we were watching them their behavior changed. And I read it somewhere that you said the wolves can sense when they're being watched. Would you be good enough to share a little bit about one of your stories or experiences with the dogs kind of … The wolves, sorry. Their sense of being watched.

Jamie Dutcher (19:18):

I don't know if we have an exact story about that because we were part of their environment. So we were there all the time. We were watching all the time. But I can say for sure that wolves are very aware and they have a deep sense of what is around them. And that's really … If you're lucky enough to see a wolf in the wild they'll stop and they'll look at you and then they'll move on. But again, if you are lucky enough to see a wolf in the wild, you're seeing that wolf because he or she wants you to see them.

Doggy Dan (20:04):

Yes.

Jamie Dutcher (20:05):

Which is a pretty special thing if you get the opportunity for that. We had … Actually a friend of ours had an amazing experience out here. Because we live in a mountain town. And he was out doing some climbing. And he had gotten to the top of a ridge. And he popped his head over and right pretty much at his nose was a wolf sleeping right at the edge of this-

Jim Dutcher (20:35):

Under the snow.

Jamie Dutcher (20:35):

Yeah. Under the snow. And it startled him but he knew us. Our friend knew don't be afraid of wolves. They're not going to hurt you. And he just stayed there. And this wolf stood up, shook off the snow and then our friend realized it wasn't just this wolf. There was an entire pack of 12 wolves behind him laying down in the snow. And they all got up and they slowly turned around and walked further up to another ridge while that one wolf who was more than likely the alpha stood there waiting until all of his pack mates had made it far enough away and then he turned around and went off. Just kind of keeping an eye on our friend which is pretty amazing. So they're very aware.

Doggy Dan (21:29):

Just love it. Love it. I remember … Is it Farley Mowat? I always get his name wrong. Marley Fowat.

Jamie Dutcher (21:37):

Farley Mowat.

Doggy Dan (21:38):

Farley Mowat. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry Farley Mowat. But I read his book and what I always loved is how he explained he went out into the wild to look for wolves and he realized that every time he was looking for the wolves they were always watching him behind him but he didn't realize until he kind of started to go home to start with. It was almost like he was trying to track them but they had a better eye on him.

Jamie Dutcher (22:00):

Absolutely. I mean there would be times when we'd be walking through the territory and it's, "God, where'er the wolves? Where could they go? Did they leave?" And all of a sudden you realize, they're all walking behind you. They're so quiet and they're so stealthy. But one of the greatest things in Farley Mowat's book is the end of that book when he … I don't know if you remember but he thinks the wolves have moved on and he goes into the den of the alpha female just to take a look around and that she was still in there. And he admits that he had this primordial fear just to instantly be afraid of her. And then realized, oh my god, what am I doing? I think he crawled out and everything was fine. But even through everything he had observed he still had that fear.

Doggy Dan (23:01):

He crawled out and thanked the universe. Would you be so good just to share a little bit about how do you think the wolves actually viewed you? Do you think they enjoyed your company? Do you think they saw you as kind of a part of the pack? I mean there was obviously some connection there, love.

Jamie Dutcher (23:25):

I truly think they enjoyed being with us or us being around. If you've seen some of our photographs or seen our films, there are some scenes where we are with the wolves and we can touch the wolves. But everything was on their terms. We wouldn't go to the wolves. If they wanted to be near us they would come to us. It would be their choice. And they would often do that. They might just come and just sit next to you for a while and then move on. Just sharing that space. And then of course the enthusiasm when after we've had to come back from recharging batteries or whatever, sending off film, that we'd come back. They really did seem to care about us. We were I guess very inefficient pack members because we weren't much good for anything.

Doggy Dan (24:27):

Did you not feed them nibbles? What about the food? How were the wolves fed? That's an interesting topic. How were the wolves fed? Did you provide the food or was it thrown over the fence?

Jim Dutcher (24:36):

No. We would drag it in. We'd get carcasses of deer, elk, and pronghorned antilope and drag it in on a sled and place it in different places in the territory going through a gate that was far, far away. You have to imagine this place. The enclosure was there but you never saw the fence. The place was so immense. And halfway through the project we decided it would be actually better if we were living in their territory so we did that. We set up a camp within their territory. And we had to surround it with chain-link fence. Not because we were afraid of the wolves but we were afraid they were going to steal everything we had. They're really interested in anything we touched. And one time we brought out an official from the government who wanted to see wolves because he was going to be in charge of wolves that are going to be reintroduced to Idaho. So we warned him don't put anything down. They'll take it. And he had a still camera and a movie camera or a little video camera. And he started taking pictures then he started to shoot some video. And they were all excited about something and he asked us, "What are they doing?" And I said, "They're eating your still camera." Because he had put it down.

Jim Dutcher (26:19):

So I found a little chip with a couple of wires hanging out of it a week or two later and I sent it back to him and said, "Kamots enjoyed your camera. This is all I could find."

Jamie Dutcher (26:30):

But what's really interesting and a big difference between wolves and dogs and food is that as Jim said we would bring in large game, roadkill. Unfortunately there's quite a bit of it here, which was the majority of their food. But they would also kill small game in the enclosure. Rabbits and such. And people always said, "But what about your food?" And we had a very small stove and we would grill quite often. And they would be like, "Oh, weren't the wolves just crazy for the smell of grilling meat or fish or whatever?" They had no interest in it whatsoever because it wasn't something that they associated with food.

Doggy Dan (27:21):

Oh, how interesting.

Jamie Dutcher (27:23):

Which is really interesting. They just had no interest in it whatsoever. And when we moved our camp into their territory we had a large wall tent on the ground and then we had stairs going up to a platform where we had our Mongolian style yurt where we did a lot of our work and where we ate. And I was up on that deck and I was eating some kind of chip or whatever and one of them fell to the ground and I thought, "Oh my god, what have I done? I'm going to create a monster." Well, they ran over to it but they wouldn't eat it. They rolled on it to get the scent all over them but they had no desire. It wasn't something that was food.

Doggy Dan (28:14):

They could smell the chemicals.

Jamie Dutcher (28:15):

Yeah. They could smell all the chemicals.

Doggy Dan (28:18):

They're going, "Hang on, that chemical's not good for you, that one's not good for you, and that one's not good for you. Don't eat that. Whatever you do, don't eat that."

Jamie Dutcher (28:25):

But yeah. But totally disinterested in cooked food or just average human food. But one thing they did eat which we never would have seen, which no one has ever seen in the wild. They would seek out in the spring one particular wildflower called a Shooting Star. And they would graze on these Shooting Stars. And I ate one and it's not very interesting. So it doesn't really have any particular taste. But it's just that's what they would seek out. No one really has ever seen that before.

Doggy Dan (29:03):

Yeah. It's almost like these animals have an instinct and a knowing of what they need to eat and what's in the food sometimes that defies our understanding.

Jim Dutcher (29:14):

So after our years of living with these wolves and realizing we really couldn't go on to another project, another animal. We thought about sea turtles and wild horses and lynx, animals in Africa. But we kept going back to wolves. So we formed a nonprofit and we do a lot of presentations where we show images and tell stories about wolves. And the nonprofit also sponsors our research in Yellowstone and Denali and other national parks. It's been really rewarding to learn about the wolves of Yellowstone. We're not that far from Yellowstone. But up in Denali there's trapping. And so in Yellowstone if a wolf ventures across the boundary of the park they can be shot or trapped. And one of the stories that really touched us the most up in Denali is where traps were set outside the park and the pack of wolves that wandered out of the park and the alpha female stepped into a trap. And the researcher there that we worked with, Dr. Gordon Haber, told us this story that was just amazing. That this female was in a trap and the trapper didn't show up for about two weeks. So the pack must have brought food to it because it survived. But eventually the trapper came by and shot the wolf.

Jim Dutcher (30:59):

And the alpha male was so traumatized that he ran way back into the park to where their den was with the yearlings following behind. And he got to the den and he went into the den and he cleared it out to get it ready for a litter of pups that he would never father. After finishing that he ran back to where she had disappeared with the yearlings again trying to keep up. And got to the place to where she had been in this trap and he wandered all over the place and howled and howled and howled, searching for his mate. They care a lot about each other and there's just stories like that over and over. And I think that if people could understand these stories and how different each wolf is and the characters and personalities they have they probably wouldn't want to kill a wolf. But right now our state wants to eliminate 90% of the wolves that we have painfully and successfully reintroduced. And there's maybe 1,000 to 1,500 wolves in Idaho. Idaho's a rather large state. We have 20,000 bears and maybe 50,000 coyotes and only 1,000 to 1,500 wolves and now they want to kill 90% of them. Idaho has cattle and sheep but people don't come to Idaho to see cattle and sheep, they come to see the wild rivers and the mountains and the wildlife.

Jim Dutcher (32:45):

It's really sad how there's 2.8 million cattle and sheep in Idaho. 2.8 million. And wolves only killed about 170 of them a year. And the ranchers are reimbursed. So that's what we're up against and we're trying to educate people about wolves and that's why we write books and produce films and tell all our stories.

Doggy Dan (33:12):

I couldn't agree more and I read somewhere, I heard somewhere and it just said this world will never find peace and happiness until we restore balance to nature. And that balance to nature can be summed up by 2.8 million cattle and sheep and some people want to kill off 90% of the wolves and there's only 1,000. So we'd be down to 100, 150. It's that imbalance that is so wrong and feels so out of proportion.

Jamie Dutcher (33:47):

Yeah. There's not even a sensible argument for it. All the reasoning is false and based on myth. Wolves will occasionally take cattle and sheep but, as Jim said, the number is extraordinarily small. And they don't attack humans. They're curious of humans but they prefer to stay away from them. And they just continuously get the bad rap. The Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs. Everything's pushed back onto wolves. And in fact we as humans make things worse for wolves when we do go out and try to … When the government will go out and try to eliminate a pack or part of a pack because let's say they're worried they're going to be predating on livestock. Well, then you've just decimated the family and you've either left a bunch of kids that don't know how to fend for themselves properly or you've broken up the pack to a point where they're just in twos and threes and that's not enough of a family to bring down a large animal. So that's when you create the problem of wolves then having no choice but to go after something easier like cattle and sheep. They don't even really like the taste of cattle and sheep.

Jamie Dutcher (35:18):

They don't act like natural prey to them. But it's a source of desperation and we create that by taking away their own prey sources and by killing off family members.

Jim Dutcher (35:33):

Dan, they're actually killing the puppies at the dens now. They're digging them up when they're a week or two old and shooting them with a gun or something worse.

Doggy Dan (35:47):

Yeah. I don't despair of the human race but I certainly sometimes question whether the animals can lead us back to our hearts and show us how to feel and show us how to love and show us how to care and show us how to live in families and look after the old and the young. And I think, to be honest, I sometimes wonder whether the wolves repulse many people because, like you say, they are the best of what humans could be.

Jamie Dutcher (36:16):

Yeah. And they're also the dog that doesn't kennel up. That makes some people angry. They don't like that. It's an animal they can't control. And we owe so much to the wolves. Because as you know, all dogs have virtually the same DNA as wolves. They all derived … Whether it's the Pekingese or the great sled dogs, they all derive from wolves. And we owe so much to wolves for our very best companion. There's no other animal on earth that reads us as well as our family dogs. Chimpanzees can't. We can't even read each other as well sometimes.

Doggy Dan (36:58):

No. Totally.

Jamie Dutcher (36:59):

But dogs can. And we've grown up together and had this great symbiotic relationship and have influenced each other's evolutions and created what we are. So we owe them a lot.

Doggy Dan (37:14):

Something that came to mind when you were talking about how much we are fascinated with the wolves is, I think I mentioned earlier, a couple of years ago I did visit Yellowstone National Park and it blew me away that there was these huge … Was it buffalo or bison? I forget.

Jamie Dutcher (37:29):

Bison.

Jim Dutcher (37:30):

Bison.

Doggy Dan (37:31):

Huge bison buffering up against the cars. 10 or 20 or a herd of 50 of them just wandering through a trail of cars. And then people would get quite excited because there'd be a grizzly bear crossing the road. But all of that paled into insignificance compared to the excitement of when there was this tiny black dot about three and a half kilometers away on a hill.

Jim Dutcher (37:59):

Yeah.

Jamie Dutcher (38:00):

Absolutely.

Doggy Dan (38:01):

And people couldn't even see what it was. Only the people with the biggest telescopes could say, "It's a wolf. It's moving." And the excitement was off the charts. It's almost like, yeah, people come to Yellowstone for all sorts of reasons but the excitement of seeing a wild wolf was just unbelievable. It was beautiful.

Jim Dutcher (38:21):

You can't even see them with binoculars. They're so far away. And the people that do this, they're from all over the world. I'm amazed how friendly they are. Say, "Oh, you don't have a spotting scope? Look through mine." They want to share.

Doggy Dan (38:41):

Absolutely. Yeah.

Jamie Dutcher (38:43):

Yeah. People up and move there. You have people that are like permanent wolf watchers and they love to tell you about the wolves they're seeing. So really, if you're going to Yellowstone and looking for wolves, you don't really even need a spotting scope because if you can find them they're more than happy to share and share the stories. Which is really terrific. It's just created a huge tourist industry and just a great comradery because the thrill of wolves being back, that ultimate wildness. And if you're fortunate enough to then hear them howl, it raises the hair on the back of your neck in a good way. Just a real soulful way and it's just an amazing thing. And yeah, the people out there are terrific.

Doggy Dan (39:39):

Yeah. It was absolutely a highlight for myself. Just the excitement of standing there looking for a wolf hour upon end was just … "Is that one? No, no. I think that's just a tree. No, the tree's moving. No it's not. It is." I'll never forget it. Never forget it.

Doggy Dan (39:56):

So can you tell me a little bit about how people can get more involved or learn more about what you're doing or help protect the wolves? What's the best thing for people to do?

Jim Dutcher (40:08):

Well, our organization's called Living with Wolves. And we have a website that explains wolf behavior and all the films and books that we've written about wolves. And we actually just won a national award for the website so-

Doggy Dan (40:28):

Oh, brilliant.

Jim Dutcher (40:29):

Pretty proud of it. Yeah.

Doggy Dan (40:30):

Is that Living with Wolves?

Jamie Dutcher (40:32):

Livingwithwolves.org.

Doggy Dan (40:35):

Livingwithwolves.org. Beautiful.

Jim Dutcher (40:36):

And a recent book that we did was called The Wisdom of Wolves. And a lot of these stories that we're telling you right now are in that book. So it's not really a picture book like The Hidden Life of Wolves but it's based on stories.

Jamie Dutcher (40:54):

Yeah. And more about what we learned from wolves and what people in general could really take away from wolves. And we also have on the website different government agencies to reach out to. We also have great learning tools. We have an online version of our photography exhibit which travels around. And with National Geographic we put together a teacher's guide. An educational guide for grades K through 12. So that's a great resource and also a fun family guide. Things for kids and families to do at home. And as Jim said, just a tremendous amount of information about what wolves are really like in a very digestible way. We'll often reprint scientific articles but rewrite them so it's easier for people to digest and understand. So yeah, I would say that's a great way to start. And just be an activist for wolves and a supporter. I know there are no wolves in New Zealand but your podcast I'm sure goes all over the world. And besides humans, wolves are the most traveled species on the planet. Have lived on more continents than any other animal.

Jamie Dutcher (42:29):

There are wolves in Africa, the Ethiopian wolf, in the deserts of Arabia and Egypt, Jordan, the desert wolf. And of course, wolves in Europe and here in North America. So they're a global animal and they need global support, truly. They really, really do.

Doggy Dan (42:52):

Yeah. Well, like I say, I've had the book, The Hidden Life of Wolves, for many years and it is a beautiful book. It's one of the most beautiful books. And I noticed on Amazon it's got … Every rating is a five star review on Amazon.

Jim Dutcher (43:08):

Oh, really?

Jamie Dutcher (43:09):

That's good to hear.

Jim Dutcher (43:10):

That's nice.

Doggy Dan (43:11):

It's right up there. And I've also got the wisdom of wolves as an audible. So you can get that on Audible. I'm listening to that as I do my gardening. Really beautiful.

Jim Dutcher (43:21):

Thanks.

Doggy Dan (43:22):

Yeah. I've got a couple of quick questions if I may. They're very much personal questions. And one of them may sound a bit weird but I'm just going to ask it because I'm fascinated. I don't care.

Jamie Dutcher (43:30):

That's okay.

Doggy Dan (43:31):

Sex. Sex and wolves. Do the wolves have sex just to reproduce or do they … I've read somewhere that the wolves, only if they feel the situation and it's time to reproduce will they mate. Does that mean they kind of only mate once a year and it's only the alpha pair? I'm just interested.

Jamie Dutcher (43:56):

Yeah. Unlike dogs, wolves only breed once a year and that's in late winter and then the pups are born in early spring.

Doggy Dan (44:06):

And when you say mate, does that mean the actual having sex or is that they'll have sex many times a year but only once does it biologically kick in?

Jamie Dutcher (44:16):

No, they really only have sex once a year. The female only comes into estrus and so that's when she's desirable. So that's when they get together. And it is true that if wolves are living in an area where there's a plentiful amount of game and everything's going good for them, not only will the alpha pair breed but the alpha male may also mate with a beta female or another female. That can happen as well. But at the same time, if the pack is in distress, if they're having a very difficult time finding game, then they may not breed that year because they know they cannot support those pups. Now, one really kind of … Since you've asked about wolf sex. Is it's generally thought that the alpha male picks the female and he's in charge. Well, really it's the other way around.

Doggy Dan (45:23):

Oh, just like humans.

Jamie Dutcher (45:23):

Just like humans. Exactly like humans. Yeah. You will have … For example, in our pack, we had two females. We had Wyakin and Chemukh. And we assumed for no reason, we just assumed that Wyakin would probably become the alpha female because she was more gregarious and just a better all around mate. Where Chemukh was timid and a little bit of an omega almost. Well, all of a sudden the two of them came into estrus at just about the same time and all bets were off. Chemukh became superwoman. She became aggressive towards Wyakin, would always kind of put her down. Sort of like, "Look at me. Look at me." And she really put herself in front of Kamots all the time and really actually made it quite difficult for Wyakin to even want to breed. Let's just say she was a bit aggressive in the netherlands area. So yeah, I don't know what your audience is so I'm just trying to-

Doggy Dan (46:45):

No. No way. They just love to learn the truth.

Jamie Dutcher (46:49):

Yeah. So anyway, she just put herself in front of Kamots and he's like, "Oh, okay. I guess you're it."

Doggy Dan (46:58):

Wow.

Jamie Dutcher (47:00):

And yeah, that's how it's done.

Doggy Dan (47:02):

Oh. Nature's amazing. Yeah.

Jamie Dutcher (47:05):

And it really was quite sweet after that. They really had a great bonding time and it was pretty sweet.

Jim Dutcher (47:14):

Our researcher friends in Yellowstone, especially Doug Smith, told us this story. That they'd been watching the pack and when the alpha male stood up and was ready to go on a walkabout, going hunting or whatever, the rest of the pack just sort of looked at him and then he'd lay down. But the alpha females stood up and the whole pack got up like, "We're going somewhere. We're going somewhere."

Doggy Dan (47:47):

Wow.

Jim Dutcher (47:48):

Yeah. They take their lead from the females.

Doggy Dan (47:51):

Jim, you know what's amazing? I had two questions. One was about the sex and the wolves and the other one was about who decides when they go for a walk and does the alpha male stand up and then they all follow. That was going to be my other question. So call it telepathy or whatever but … Because I've always said when you're in charge, you stand up. I have this story I tell because so much about my dog training, and this ties it back to the dog training, is about being the leader to your dog and being the decision maker. And I always say in the wild, when the wolves are going hunting, the wolves don't go, "Hey, let's go hunting," and the wolves say, "Oh, Bobby and Gary have already gone off this morning hunting and Sheila and Wendy and Brian decided to do their own thing." I said no they don't just wander off. They wait for the leader. And the leader says, "We're going now." And the leader stands up and they all turn and go. It's on.

Doggy Dan (48:42):

And I've even witnessed that with my own dogs where I've whispered in little Inca's … Inca was my female dog. She's in one room and I've whispered, I said, "Do you want to go for a walk?" And she has run down the corridor, she's told Moses and Jack what I've just said, however she told them, and the three of them have all started jumping around and run to the back door. In other words, I've communicated it and they just know how to pass it on because in nature it's so important they all go as a big pack.

Jim Dutcher (49:08):

Wonderful.

Jamie Dutcher (49:10):

But not to take anything away from the alpha. He's the first to really be aware to perceive any danger or something that might not be going right in the area, check things out, really keep an eye on the pack. But the females, they rule the roost as far as hunting and when they're going to go and how they're going to do it.

Jim Dutcher (49:38):

Dan, we could actually just go out and take a notebook and hang out with the wolves and not take the cameras and you'd hear a branch break out in the surrounding forest and Kamots, the alpha, he would stand up to this and he'd look around and he'd trot off to investigate what that might have been. And the rest of the pack just like, "Oh, Kamots can handle that." And you think about this with wolves being hunted. So it's the alphas, the leaders that stand up to the perceived danger when a hunter comes into the forest. And they put themselves up in front and they, along with very young pups, are the first to be shot. Which just interrupts the behavior of the pack and makes it all unbalanced.

Doggy Dan (50:38):

Yeah. It's very sad. It's very, very sad when you think about it. The emotions and the love and the bonds which are broken and all I can do is say a huge thank you to you both for all your work and-

Jim Dutcher (50:51):

Thanks Dan.

Jamie Dutcher (50:52):

Thank you.

Doggy Dan (50:53):

Yeah. I appreciate it. I know millions of people around the world do. And feel like I could chat to you guys for hours and share stories.

Jamie Dutcher (51:00):

Yeah.

Jim Dutcher (51:00):

Well, call us back sometime.

Doggy Dan (51:03):

Yeah. I will. I will. Is there anything else you'd like to share or say or point people towards a website or anything else?

Jamie Dutcher (51:11):

Well, just for more information to go to our website. But if we have a moment, there is one story I would like to tell you.

Doggy Dan (51:18):

Absolutely. Yeah.

Jamie Dutcher (51:19):

Because I think it not only really tells you about wolves but it's really important for people as well. In our pack, we had the beta wolf, the sort of second in command, and his name was Matsi. The omega wolf was Lakota. And people think that, okay, the omega's always picked upon and the last to eat so that would probably be a wolf that would be a disperser. But they're really not. They're really an integral part of the family. They really are the instigators of play and diffuse pack tension. A wolf that is striving to be an alpha would be the kind of wolf that would strike out on its own. So Lakota really would get picked on, especially by the mid ranking wolves which were constantly squabbling amongst themselves for a better place in the middle of the pack. And Matsi, the beta wolf, would actually insert himself into the argument. Physically put himself in between Lakota and the other wolves so that Lakota could get away and take the pressure off of Lakota. And they had a friendship that was really quite incredible. None of the other wolves would really seek out Lakota to play with them, but Matsi would kind of encourage Lakota to go off and the two of them would play together.

Jamie Dutcher (52:56):

And they would even sort of switch roles where Matsi would kind of get down and low and Lakota could be on top. While these other wolves were in fact, the best way to describe it was bullying him. And Matsi really went out of his way to protect Lakota. They would sleep together and just spend incredible time together and it's a great lesson for taking the underdog under your wing and just protecting him.

Doggy Dan (53:24):

Absolutely. In your book, The Hidden Life of Wolves, I'm on page 55 and it says, "Lakota receives a reassuring glance from Matsi, the beta wolf." You know the picture I'm sure where-

Jamie Dutcher (53:38):

Oh yeah.

Jim Dutcher (53:39):

Yeah.

Doggy Dan (53:40):

Lakota's lying there going, "Help me. Am I okay?" And Matsi's literally … I don't know whether you caught that picture Jim, but it's just beautiful. You can just say, "Am I okay? Save me. Help me." "You're okay. I've got your back."

Jamie Dutcher (53:54):

But at the same time there was one time where Lakota was under a tree and just being as small as he could possibly be and we couldn't figure out what was going on. And Matsi walked right over to him, stood on top of him, straddled him, and peed all over his back. Totally peed all over him. And Lakota's ears are as back as they could be and he's trying to be small. And Matsi finished peeing on him and then walked away with this disgusted look on his face. And Lakota's still staying there. And we have no idea what happened between the two of them. But an hour later the two of them are back playing again and everything was normal.

Doggy Dan (54:32):

Who had the disgusted look? Matsi had the disgusted look?

Jamie Dutcher (54:34):

Yeah. Matsi was just disgusted with whatever Lakota had done.

Doggy Dan (54:38):

Oh my gosh.

Jamie Dutcher (54:39):

But an hour later they were friends again. Everything was okay.

Doggy Dan (54:43):

Yeah. The peeing thing fascinates me because, as I'm sure you know, it's a … Well, I believe it's a dominance thing. Is that fair to say? It's kind of a marking?

Jamie Dutcher (54:55):

Yeah.

Doggy Dan (54:55):

And we had a dog nearby who used to come onto our property and she was actually called Femi, which was like a very, I'm the alpha female sort of a name. She was called Femi, which made me laugh because she acted like she was. And lo and behold she used to kind of boss my girl dogs around quite a bit. One day she actually turned up, she went to the dogs' food bowls which were empty but still on the decking, and she literally squatted down and peed all over the dogs' food bowls and looked at me and walked off.

Jim Dutcher (55:24):

Oh, wow.

Jamie Dutcher (55:26):

Oh, god.

Doggy Dan (55:26):

And I thought … Because I think the wolves will sometimes pee on the carcass a little bit maybe or something. Is that true?

Jamie Dutcher (55:31):

Yeah. They'll pee on certain things to mark them. Yeah.

Doggy Dan (55:35):

And it just made me go, yeah, this peeing, it's fascinating. I could chat to you guys for hours and hours. Wow. Absolutely fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

Jamie Dutcher (55:45):

Dan, thanks so much for having us. It's been a pleasure.

Jim Dutcher (55:48):

Yeah. Thank you Dan.

Doggy Dan (55:49):

Yeah. Well, love to you. Keep up the great work. And yeah, I'm sure a lot of people are going to get a lot of enjoyment out of this podcast. And yeah, wish you all the best in your future work.

Jamie Dutcher (56:01):

Thank you. You too.

Jim Dutcher (56:02):

All right. Thank you.

Doggy Dan (56:04):

Thank you. Okay guys. Thanks for joining me and as always, love your dog.

Voiceover (56:10):

You've been listening to another episode of the Doggy Dan Podcast Show. Bringing you one step closer to creating harmony with your dog.

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Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan is the founder of The Online Dog Trainer, a wildly successful online training program for dog owners. His goal is to continue to share his unique approach to dog training with like-minded people who wish to make a difference in the world of dogs. His training methods focus on creating and building the connection between dogs and dog owners, and are shared and used around the world.

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“I am amazed at how quickly I saw results. Cannot recommend this enough! Brilliant!”

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"You have explained why we're having problems with our terrier and given us the tools to help him. For the first time in nearly a year we don't feel so anxious and have confidence that things will get better."

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