Buffalo wolves

Many years ago, I went to Wolf Haven in Tenino, WA. It’s a great place: they provide sanctuary for captivity-born wolves, raise awareness about wolves, and provide protection for wild wolves in a variety of ways. While I was there, I saw a buffalo wolf.

Buffalo wolves, we were told, are “triply extinct.” (It makes me sad to write this, even now.) Their habitat’s gone (the plains), their food source is gone (buffalo), and at the time I saw them, there weren’t enough left to form a viable captive breeding population. If they’re not gone from the Earth now, they will be soon. But that’s not the point of this story.

Buffalo wolves (canis lupus nubilus), also known as “Great Plains wolves,” are a subspecies of gray wolf. They hunted buffalo. Buffalo, in case you aren’t familiar with them, don’t take garbage from anyone. Bulls can weigh a ton or more. They stand 5-6′ high at the shoulders. They’re incredibly agile and they can sprint at 30mph. They can jump over a 6′ fence from a standing position. They are tough dudes.

Nevertheless, buffalo wolves would hunt, kill, and eat buffalo regularly. This went on for thousands of years (before humans came along and screwed things up). How did they do that to an animal that could kill them just by stepping on them? The answer is that, like other wolves, buffalo wolves hunted in packs. They didn’t need to face down a buffalo single-handedly. No one wolf had but a fraction of the strength and power of a buffalo, but a lot of them together were able to whittle a buffalo down, kill it, and eat it.

This story gives me heart and hope. I’ll never be as strong as a buffalo myself, but the buffalo wolf has taught me that I don’t need to be. I just have to be part of a big-enough pack of other buffalo wolves focused on bringing down that particular buffalo and we’ll win every time. It’s a very appealing image.

3 Responses to “Buffalo wolves”

  1. They are not gone, the majority of them were moved to Montana and have been there since the 80’s. They were brought to Washington from Kane, PA, where I am from. Dr. Cleery rescued the last ones that were in the wild and saved them from extinction. They now have a very high population. They didn’t need large packs to bring down a buffalo, they were large enough and strong enough to bring down one with only 4-5 wolves.

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