The Essential Guide to Raising Wolves

What does it take to raise wolves? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Oliver Starr, wolf handler, wilderness advocate, on Quora.

Commitment. Wolves can live up to twenty years (I once heard of one that made it to 21) in captivity and they don't typically do well if they are re-homed. You'd better be prepared to commit as much as 1/5th of your lifetime to stewardship of a potentially very difficult to manage animal.

Understanding. Wolves are complex creatures. In more ways than most people want to admit, they are highly similar to us. To raise a wolf in captivity is an incredible responsibility because your responsibility should extend far beyond animal husbandry and should be focused on animal happiness. Very few people with captive wolves understand the species well enough. As a result, while they keep their animals alive and physically well, they also keep them prisoner. Only by understanding the social nature and behavioral ecology of wolves can you provide a "lifestyle" that promotes the physical and mental well being of the animal.

Resources. In addition to all the typical costs associated with caring at a high level for a domestic dog, you need to factor in a number of other significant costs. Land. Wolves require large natural habitats to be happy. You need to be able to afford land. Location. Not many jobs are available in places that are biologically appropriate for wolves. Our food cost alone per animal is $9 per day, feeding a biologically appropriate "prey-model" diet, supplemented by road-killed deer or elk gifted by friends.

Endurance. Wolves are fed by their feet. So says the Russian proverb. A wolf that spends its life in a 1-acre enclosure is as bad as a human in a cell. You can't let an animal run at large. This means you'd better be ready to do an incredible amount of walking. Plan on at least five miles a day, every day, in almost every weather. I go through several pairs of quality boots a year to provide additional context.

Patience. Wolves are smart. Really smart. They are curious. They can easily be destructive. Just because they can be trained doesn't mean they will be trained. They will certainly try your patience. Our girl, Aqutaq, was a bundle of teeth, claws and growls as a tiny pup. She was so challenging her original name was "Monstressa". Only by virtue of patience and positive reinforcement did we gain her trust and eventually her love.

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