Interview with Tiit Hunt

Wildlife Specialists Talking about Their Area of Expertise
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Interview with Tiit Hunt

Post by Jo UK » March 3rd, 2009, 4:08 pm

This interview has been prompted by the howling of the wolves heard via the Pig Cam on 1.3.09

Tiit Hunt,

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Head Zoologist of the Estonian Museum of Natural History is devoted to nature photography and introducing the assets of Nature.
For years, his interest for Nature, has taken him traveling to various parts of the World.
Every spring, Tiit Hunt, one of the organizers of Bloodless Hunt - the animal photographing contest- has also made reports of the event.
LKF has asked an interview from Tiit Hunt to answer the questions about WOLVES.
* What a remarkable coincidence – Wolf in Estonian means Hunt

Your questions about wolves are invited.

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Post by Jo UK » March 3rd, 2009, 6:54 pm

Here is good information about the Grey Wolf. If you read this, as I have just done, you can learn the meaning of
sympatric speciation!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_Wolf

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Post by yarko » March 3rd, 2009, 7:08 pm

Hello Tiit, thank you for agreeing to give LKF an interview!

My question is about classification - how many wolf subspecies there is?
Wolves that live in our area (in Estonia)– how can we 'call' them? Gray wolf? Eurasian wolf?


Tiit Hunt(T.H.):

Subspecies of Gray wolf:

In the north-western part of the North American mainland and on the arctic islands there is Canis lupus arctos.
And Canis lupus tundrarum.

In the Eurasian forest belt there are the subspecies Canis lupus lupus and Canis lupus altaicus
In the tundra area of Eurasia there is Canis lupus albus

Canis lupus campestris and Canis lupus desertorum inhabit the Mid-Asian steppes.

In south-western Asia and India there is Canis lupus pallipes and in the Arabian peninsula, Canis lupus arabs. Adding this up gets 9 subspecies.

And so, in Estonia we have the gray wolf.
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Post by Liis » March 4th, 2009, 12:05 pm

Where do you believe wolves in Estonia will be in 5 and in 10 years time – literally and figuratively? How many? Where? Tolerated or hunted down?
(If I may give some background to the questions:
Estonia seems to have managed more wolves in a smaller area with less inflamed conflicts than for instance Sweden (150 - 200 wolves, in both countries? Estonian numbers going down, Swedish up?). But lifestyles are changing. Some factors: More hobby hunting, less tolerance of (other) hunting animals; Pet animals (= prey for wolves) more personally valued than in farming society; Changing husbandry of livestock – no ‘shepherds’ around, small hobby cattle and sheep groups = easy wolf food. Changing living: summer houses - empty long periods = animal territory, then occupied. Conflict - or more appreciation of 'wild' nature?)
Thank you for the opportunity to ask!


T.H.:

I don’t think that the number of wolves in Estonia will decrease. 2007/8 was not a very good winter for wolf-hunting, due to the lack of snow, and so more of them were left to prowl around in the forests. In the winter of 2008/9 the preliminary limit for the maximum number of wolves that were allowed to be shot was raised. During the last few years the wolf population has been comparatively stable.
The size of the wolf population is primarily regulated by hunters, and by the abundance, or lack of it, of their basic food. Wild boars and deer are quite numerous in Estonia at present, and will probably stay so for several years to come. So, seeing to food, even 500 wolves could live in Estonia. Another question is if this number would be acceptable from a hunting policy point of view. The wolf population is regulated mainly by hunting, and a limit is set for the number of wolves that may be killed. From this we can assume that in 5 years time there will be roughly the same number of wolves in Estonia as now (about 150 animals). And wolf hunting is not at all as easy as shooting a boar on a feeding place,
Wolves will go on living where they are used to live.

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Post by Kuremari » March 4th, 2009, 7:48 pm

During the past years we have heard about several incidents, where wolves have attacked domestic
animals, even dogs in their yards, killed the sheep, but did not eat them.
What do You think the reason of that is?
Is it the lack of food in the forest or is there too many wolves? or something else?
What is Your personal opinion - do we have too many wolves in Estonia?

T.H.:

I believe that we have a rather suitable number in Estonia. Over a year the number varies markedly, it is highest in autumn. The pups born in spring will then essentially be grown-up. Killing domestic animals without eating them has very probably to do with “wolf schooling” - - the older teach the young to kill. The killing is then more important than eating.
Wolves have always killed domestic animals from time to time, it is nothing special for recent years. As late as in the 19th century healthy wolves occasionally killed people in Estonia. Later attackers have been rabies-infected animals.
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Post by yarko » March 4th, 2009, 10:05 pm

Tiit, you have met wolves in nature - probably more than once?
Could you please tell us about your most 'intimate' (or most 'shocking'?:) meeting with Wolf.
Maybe it was one of those 'i wish i had my camera with me' meetings?:)


T.H.:

True, I have met wolves several times. The latest meeting was on September 12, 2008.
I met a wolf for the first time when I was a boy of 14. It was a winter with plenty of snow, I was resting a bit in a birch coppice at the edge of a bog after wading through the snow, when I noticed a lone big wolf trundling straight towards me from far away. Just before I noticed the wolf I had been thinking that I was really too far away from home and rather tired. When I saw the creature, and then realised that it was a real wolf, I got a very vivid picture of my father in my mind, but I didn’t wet my pants. Of course I had my camera with me, but in this awkward situation – well, I had no strength in arms or legs or head. So it remains a deeply engraved image but only in memory. But well, Wolf doesn’t eat Wolf ... The wolf came to about 15-20 m from me, then suddenly jerked and changed direction without stopping. I could see his rump and tail for a long time.
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Post by Olga » March 4th, 2009, 10:13 pm

Hi, concerning the phenomena that there are some 'domestic-dog mixed wolves', perhaps among the genuine, 'pure' wolves, I have heard that some of those wolves which has caused damages to tame animals, like sheep, dogs, or behaved threatening people (actually I don't know not one fresh story about this here In Finland!) etc. has been 'wolf-dogs'.

During years there has been many programs in our radio, where wolf researhers have told quite much about wolves, their behavior, their history, legends, people's superstitions - explained how false they may be, and pondered the problems the dog-wolves may cause to wolves themselves, not only to humans.

I was very surprised to know that there are people who even breed dog-wolves. I don't know any positive reason to do so. I have been told that dog-wolves don't behave as wolves, nor as dogs, that accidents they cause, just increase people's unreasonable old wolf-fear.

What do you think about the wolf-dogs in relation to the survival of wolves?


T.H.:

In nature wolf and dog crosses without doubt pollute the pure wolf genes. In Estonia wolf and dog crosses have been officially identified for the first time this year, in Läänemaa, where 5 second-generation crosses were found. Hunters shot them all. But any serious wolf-dog problem that might prove fatal to the wolf population doesn’t seem to exist in Estonia


Is it possible to tame a wolf ?

T.H.:

Why should a wolf be tamed? There are so many dog breeds, some of them quite wolf-like.
It is us humans who has been dangerous to wolves in many different ways. The old time's cruel ways of hunt wolves have changed and they are not so painful any more for them, there are laws protecting wolves etc.


Do you think that wolves are not any more as much threatened of extinction as before?
I think my question goes perhaps partly a bit out of the topic 'wolves', and I'm sorry if my English is not very good.

T.H.:
Well, it is not possible to turn a wolf into a Labrador Retriever. Tolerance and affection may develop in an animal raised from when it was a pup, but I think that a wild animal may always forget this in certain situations, and it can behave unpredictably and even attack instinctively. There is no need to fear that wolves would become extinct in Estonia. Between 1935-1940 we had the lowest ever number of wolves due to intense hunting. There may have been some ten animals. Today the number of wolves is regulated on a different basis than at that time. There is a tolerance for them, and an understanding of the necessary role of wolves in nature. Fresh blood to the wolf population comes in from Russia. I think that there is no reason to fear for a scarcity of wolves in Estonia.
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Post by Bisky » March 5th, 2009, 12:22 am

Hello, and thank you for taking time to answer our questions.

Actually, renandeli beat me to the punch in asking about wolf-dogs. When I was taking our dog to obedience training class as a puppy, there was a wolf/German shepard mix also attending class with his owner. I never felt at ease when we were next to them.

Nero didn't show any unusual aggression toward the other dogs, but he also always wore a heavy pinch training collar (the kind with metal prongs that go into the dog's neck when it is pulled tighter) while the other dogs were not required to do so. Have I been brainwashed growing up with the nursery tales about the big bad wolf, or is the wolf part of the mix unpredictable in captivity?

(By the way, my last name is Hunt, also. Maybe we had some common ancesters many generations ago!)

T.H.:

The problem is precisely this, that it is not possible to know when the true nature of the wolf surfaces in a particular real situation.
About possible common ancestors, I really don’t know.

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Post by silver » March 5th, 2009, 12:48 am

Hello!
I have heard that Estonia has a population of around 200 wolf Does this number can be sure?
Given that one of the "family"controlled quite a large territory may be wolves much less than we think.(how you listed them?)
What is the fate of these excellent animals for our republic? Will they survive or they are awaiting the same fate as the western Europe.
Many thanks, if You find the time to answer the question and the success of future activities


T.H.:

During the last few years nearly 135 wolves have been counted, this is the number in spring, before pups are born. Wolves are counted on the basis of recordings of individuals and tracks. 1500 sightings have been analyzed and recorded.
I believe that nothing tragic will happen to the Estonian wolf population. The regulation of the number of wolves on a scientific basis and the individuals coming in from Russia will probably keep the number of wolves stable.

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Post by yarko » March 5th, 2009, 1:06 am

My question is a bit similar to Silver's.

Do you have overview about wolf packs and their locations on Estonian territory during winter 2008/2009?

T.H.:

This last winter the spread of the flocks has been quite uniform over Estonia. They were there in all counties. On Hiimaa there is one wolf, on Saaremaa 3 at most, it is not known definitely if there are 2 or 3..
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Post by garina do mar » March 5th, 2009, 1:30 am

Hi Tiit Hunt
In Portugal the population of wolves is growing as there are some measures to pay farmers for losses, the very successfull introduction of wolf preys in some areas and also the rasing of shepperd dogs. In 2003 there were already 63 groups of wolves.
But the wolves in Portugal are Iberian Wolves "Canis lupus signatus" Are they very different from the wolves in northern Europe?
Thank you :bow:
Some information about wolves in Portugal:
http://lobo.fc.ul.pt/AspLoboNovoIngles/homenovo.htm
It's in English
:whistling:

T.H.:

Before the pups are born in spring we have about 135 wolves. The Portuguese wolf is a subspecies of gray wolf, and they should be very similar.
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Post by Liis » March 5th, 2009, 11:48 am

Hello! One more question about future -
Will wolves get used to people? Will that make them more of a problem?
Some animals seem to adapt fast and others stay shy. Deer have become a nuisance in many settled areas in Sweden, munching in gardens even when shouted at, and not because there is little ‘real’ food or deer overpopulation. But lynxes are almost never seen. There are ‘garbage bears’ in US and Canada. Estonian area is rather small. So – wolves?

T.H.:


The habitats of wolves in Estonia – bogs, bog islets, copses - are situated far from populated areas, the wolves have enough space to continue their wolf life in the customary ways. I don’t think that they have any need yet to get more used to people than they are now. But the future is difficult to foretell. Estonia is small, true, but quite sparsely populated and there are many bogs here.

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Post by Olga » March 5th, 2009, 1:59 pm

Jo:
This interview has been prompted by the howling of the wolves heard via the Pig Cam on 1.3.09
When I had listened the howling, I used the word 'terrible'. For me the word terrible has two meanings: 1) horrible 2) prodigious (very 'wonderful', something shocking attractive..something actually impossible to describe with human words) It was something I would be scared to death if I heard it in live in a black forest, but I would appreciate it as a priceless experience at same time.
(in some languages the 'terrible' actually has those controversial meanings).

Tiit Hunt, ..
1) what would you say about wolves with 'one word', as a reply to someone who says: "Wolves are dagerous monsters, creepy and loathsome savages, worth of hatred"?

T.H.:

Learning much more facts about them would be essential.


2) What would you think, or to say to one who has a dream of a tame wolf, and wish to have a wolf as a pet, because she/he 'loves' wolves?

T.H.:

If you love wolves then it is also necessary to accept what is good for the wolf, where he wants to live, and how. The place of a wolf is in his natural environment. The thought of keeping a wolf as a pet animal should be forgotten, in fact our laws don’t allow wild animals to be brought up at home
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Post by NancyM » March 5th, 2009, 7:52 pm

My question is a little bit related to the one just asked by renandeli.

What do you think is the greatest misconception that people have about wolves?

T.H.:

I don’t know exactly which is the greatest misconception, but I do know how these misconceptions arise. The come from small or non-existent knowledge of the life and behaciour of wolves.

P.S. If possible, I would also like to know about the bird on your shoulder in the picture. A pet? What species? How old? :blush:

T.H.:

The bird is a cockatiel, Nymphus hollandicus, we don’t know its age because the bird was found one autumn at the seashore, it was very exhausted and hungry when the children found it. It should be at least 6 years old.

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Post by juta » March 6th, 2009, 12:22 am

False or truth?

My aunt used to live in Siberia for some time in small village deep forest around. Local people had to walk through the forest to get to another place. They told that sometime wolf fallowed them in safe distance(never attacted). My aunt said once she saw one wolf too.
Similar stories has been told about lynx in Estona.

So, is it false of truth?

T.H.:

My mother told a similar story, that a wolf had followed her for 1-2 km but never came nearer than about 100 m. This happened about 50 years ago. Wolves are inquisitive too.
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Post by Olga » March 6th, 2009, 9:34 am

I think that watching a wolf-web cam might increase the positive attitudes to wolves, and decrease the negative suspicions. Do you know some wolf-webcam you could recommend?

T.H.:

I don’t know if there is any such web camera at all at the moment.
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Post by Liis » March 6th, 2009, 10:38 am

Hunt? Susi?
What is the original / oldest known word for wolf in Estonian?
It seems that hunt (from hound??) is a loan or noa word, and susi is older. I always believed it was the other way about ...
EDIT:
Hello, Tiit Hunt - the question still stands alhtough we have managed to struggle down to Indo-european loans etc in the meantime, here & following posts, EPL 2007 article and Arvi's post below. So, please - theories on the original Estonian word :innocent: ?

T.H.:

I think so too, that susi is older. It is used in Finnish even today. I have never had much time for language research, so I have no theories in this area.

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Post by Arvi » March 6th, 2009, 2:18 pm

Liis wrote:Hunt? Susi?
What is the original / oldest known word for wolf in Estonian?
It seems that hunt (from hound??) is a loan or noa word, and susi is older. I always believed it was the other way about ...
Considering the weight of german influence, I'll bet on Hund (as loan source).
Susi is more South-Estonian critter - at least in modern times.
And mostly old Estonians didn't name him 'hunt' or 'susi' in conversations at all - so avoiding to invite him. They used 'võsavillem' or 'hallivatimees' or any other Xty synonyms instead.

* Sorry that I did ansver Liis question here accidentaly - I opened the topic, was distracted, and later didn't remember, that there are interview questions :slap: admin :help:

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Post by Jo UK » March 6th, 2009, 3:47 pm

Thanks for thinking of that, Arvi, but I think it is OK to leave your post here. It seems to be part of the topic and adds to the level of knowledge.

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Post by Jo UK » March 7th, 2009, 3:45 pm

What a good seletion of questions you all asked!

We will leave this topic open over the weekend, hoping someone will think of more questions!
It will be closed late on Monday, translated into Estonian and passed to Tiit Hunt, then re-translated back to English and posted here.

Thanks, everyone, for your continued interest.

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