The famous howl at the full moon has largely contributed to building the disturbing legend of the wolf. However, just like the barking of the dog or the whistling of the dolphin, it is neither more nor less than a way of exchanging with its congeners.
The experts at Parc animalier de Courzieu help you understand why wolves howl.
The howl of the wolf: a means of communication
If scientists have not yet pierced all the secrets of the lupine language or its meaning, they do however agree on one point: the wolf communicates by howls , cries and yelps. Each type of vocalization comes in many modulations, depending on the situation and the message transmitted.
Within the park, we noticed that our two packs respond to each other. The gray wolves howl first in the valley, especially before the arrival of the animal handlers who come to collect them for feeding in our open-air amphitheater, and their arctic cousins answer them. There does not therefore seem to be a “barrier” between the subspecies.
The different types of wolf calls
Communication in wolves includes a wide range of vocalizations, from yelps and growls to cries and howls. Remember that Canis lupus is a social animal: language is therefore essentially used to maintain the link in the pack, especially when one of the members is missing. According to an Austrian study, it would also seem that the more the absent wolf enjoys a high role in the hierarchy, the louder the howls of its congeners.
Specialists have identified several situations in which the wolf resorts to howling. The departure of the hunt, for example, gives rise to a real concert, a bit like human hunters singing a common song. This collective howl among wolves therefore seems to play a cohesive role.
What about the wolf howling at the moon?
Answering the question “ why the magnifying glass is howling” is one thing, but many people have the image of the pack howling at the moon… Even if it means debunking a widely held belief, the lunar phase probably has no impact on the cry of the wolf … On the other hand, this animal is more active at dawn and at dusk, which explains why we hear it more at this time than during the day.
As for its position, head raised towards the sky, it is due to acoustic imperatives and not to any homage to the stars! The wolf's howl has a range of several kilometers, even in a dense environment such as the forest. This resonance is favored by the position of the animal: by sending its cry upwards, it gives it a better amplitude.
The pack howl, a carefully tuned symphony
If the wolf is an eminently social animal, it also respects a very strict hierarchy. This transpires when the pack of wolves howls . Indeed, it is always the alpha male who starts the concert, followed by his female, then by the rest of the group.
The howl usually starts in the bass, before rising in the treble, then falling back. The power and the modulations are very variable from one individual to another and according to the context. For the moment, researchers are far from having completely elucidated the mystery of these vocalizations...