Weather better. We did spot two wolves yesterday, one of which was the same one we saw on Friday, plus one new one. This makes nine wolves now that are using the area. One wolf appears to be a yearling based on its small size, and the other appears to be a maturing female based on her abbreviated flexed-leg urination (see Editors' Note). Of special interest was the way the two met. The younger wolf seemed to stalk the older one initially, sniffed it when they met, and then the older one sniffed the tail gland of the smaller one. (See the 2008 Blog for more observations about tail gland sniffing.) We are still waiting to see a nursing female again on which to place our second collar.
Dave & Dean
Editors' Note: Scent-marking is used as a "no trespassing" advertisement of territorial boundaries. Wolves typically leave more scent marks along the perimeter of their territory than within the core. Trespassers onto alien territory are thought to suspend marking until they return to their own territory. Both the male and the female breeders (formerly called the "alphas") in a wolf pack scent mark. The breeding male's scent-marking posture is raised-leg urination (RLU). Male wolves sometimes use standing urination (STU) as well. Females use squat urination (SQU), and the breeding female will often use a flexed-leg posture (FLU). See the photo on July 17, 2008. The female is displaying an abbreviated version of FLU. Her leg is only slightly elevated. The communication function both of anal sac secretions and the glands associated with the hair follicles around the anus are varied and complex. In addition, wolves have a supracaudal or dorsal tail gland which is located on the top of the tail at the surface, about 1/3 of the way down from the tail base. In some pale color-phase gray wolves (white, gray, buff, tan), this gland may be noticeable as a diffused area of darker coloring. The guard hairs are black-tipped, and underfur is absent from this area. Although the specific role of this gland is not known for certain, scientists have proposed that it may advertise individual identity. In terms of the senses, the old adage, "The nose knows" applies perfectly to the wolf. The sense of smell is probably the most acute of all the wolf's senses. Wolves constantly seek olfactory information, both about their surroundings and about each other. The animal's entire body produces scent information, and scientists still have a great deal left to learn about the roles of various odors and the information they convey.
More images can be viewed on our Flickr Photostream.