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The Raven and the Wolf—a Study in Symbiosis

Updated on December 23, 2016
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Relationships

Aware that I promised this information months ago as a sequel to my first raven story, it has taken me this long to amass more information, as well as get my own thoughts together on the matter. Nobody seemed to catch it, but I used the moniker “Wolf Bird,” as another well-known name for the raven. What I meant specifically, was that ravens tend to go hand-in-hand with wolves that hunt rough terrain for their own needs in way of food. Ravens will also be in the area of licensed hunters, as well as poachers, which can make the poachers very easy to locate, since they are generally about the area during off-season for hunting.

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Observations

On their own, ravens are fearful of carcasses of animals that they wish to eat. Is it a real fear, or the suggestion of uselessness to the raven? Ravens also have a hard time getting at meat that hasn’t already been opened up for them to feed from. About the best that they are able to do, is forage on the eyes, or perhaps an exposed tongue in an open mouth. They will yell in the presence of an unopened carcass, which will draw wolves, and they will naturally, investigate and do what the raven wants to get into it. It benefits both of them.

Are these animals symbiotic? In a sense, they appear to be. Ravens have been observed around wolf families at rest, and have even gently pulled the tails of pups in order to get a reaction, just as they do with the adults. They will do the same with eagles, and an eagle can surely do them grievous bodily injury.

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Dependence

They don’t fear wolves, yet they do a fresh carcass out in the woods with nothing around? Ravens depend on the wolves to kill for them and open the carcass, but also to overcome their fear. This strongly suggests an ancient evolutionary history, and ravens have been of great interest for centuries. In a sense, they are forming social attachments, as both form bonds with one another. When wolves stop to rest, ravens have been observed roosting in trees, where they can watch and harass the wolves at close range. When this happens, wolves will resume travelling, which is most likely the intent of the raven to harass in the first place.

Attractions

Ravens are also attracted to wolves howling, as well as the sounds of gunshots. These are sounds to heed, which could well mean the presence of prey. When wolves get ready to hunt, they howl. Conversely, wolves also respond to certain raven vocalizations or behaviors that indicate the presence of prey.

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And so...

Ravens will also feed with bears, polar bears, and coyotes. They are much more alert and suspicious than the animals, for I have never been able to sneak up on a raven, but have not had a problem with anything else. The birds also make good eyes and ears for those that are hunting, and they certainly earn what they get to eat. Not only that, during their excursions, they miss nothing as opportunists, especially at a camp site. They have been known to return later and take bread or meat that might have interested them at that initial fly-by.

So, a few questions have been raised, as well as answered. Let’s see if we can do more research, and come up with some new material for a future article.

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 10 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, LiliMarlene! They are remarkable birds, as all birds really are. Scientists never gave them credit a decade ago when they were given proof that birds could think and reason. Now they are FINALLY getting the picture. Thanks for reading and commenting. The world of science needs astute people like you to prove that citizen science is so important to help them fill in the complete picture.

    • LiliMarlene profile image

      Elisabeth Meier 10 months ago

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with ravens! When I watch them they mostly eat nuts or other fruits or dry cat food. I've even seen them flying around with a walnut in their beak. When then landing they mostly began to create or build a place where to hide the found treasure. Really funny to watch, especially when they dig a hole, put the nut in and then close the hole with leaves and other material. Cool and smart animals.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 10 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Ravens tend to favor the north, as well as the Pacific coast. Wonder why you don't see any where you are, Norma?

    • norlawrence profile image

      Norma Lawrence 10 months ago from California

      Great article. I learned a lot about ravens from it. We do not have ravens but do have crows. Thanks

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 13 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      You are most welcome, Robert Sacchi. Animals really are a stronger species than ours, for you see, they at least have natural instincts, which bear upon a true conscience. They know that if others cannot survive, then neither will they. We should take such sage advice.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 13 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Animals in general really do have a symbiotic relationship to one another. As The Keeper of those with fur and wings, I am privy to so much, yet have such a hard time awakening the awareness in this uncaring species of ours.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 13 months ago

      An interesting article about this clever bird behavior. Thank you.

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 13 months ago from Florida

      Extremely interesting hub to read, Deb. I love the fact that a raven is a wolf's sidekick. That is amazing, and I did not know that.

      I have always loved ravens, and felt a kindred spirit with both a raven and a wolf. I don't know if it is my Cherokee heritage that has made me look at these animals as powerful allies, but that's the way I see both. It was awesome to know they are allies to each other. I'm still in awe about that information.

      These two are a smart and cunning partnership. Now that I have read how they work together for food and such, it just makes complete sense! :)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Buildreps, there are MANY interspecies relationships. Fum and Gebra was a great example of a Barn Owl and a cat. There are so many others, as well. Animals truly are sentient beings, even though our government tries to refute it by saying that it is al right to experiment on animals.

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 23 months ago from Europe

      Great Hub. Interesting observation. I'm only wondering what's in it for the wolves? Symbiosis suggests that both sides have some sort of benefit. Recently I observed a hare playing with a crow. The crow was sitting on a pole with the hare sitting in front of it. The crow started to fly slowly and low so that the hare could run after it and jump almost at the height of the crow. They were playing with eachother. I never saw this kind of play between such different animals before. It was fascinating! Was this a kind of symbiosis as well? Just for the fun?

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      How do I do what, Greg? I don't understand what you mean.

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      Greg 2 years ago

      How do you site this resources properly??

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Kris, they are. It has to do with body weight vs. brain mass, as I recall. I have a few more things that I did on ravens, and they were very common where I lived in Maine. They used to protect the house while I was gone. A neighbor told me that there were so many ravens in the yard while I was gone, nobody would ever DARE break in!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Well, Suhail, that is good to know. I think I can come up with a tidbit or two on that topic.

    • KrisL profile image

      KrisL 4 years ago from S. Florida

      I did know about the two ravens, but I forgot their names -- though I had a vague notion (just checked out) that their names mean "thought" and "mind" in English. . . .

      A decade or so ago I read a great article in Smithsonian (I think) about a scientist who studied ravens' intelligence: they are apparently a good deal smarter than crows, which is saying something.

      Thanks for following!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 4 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Great hub. Never knew about this relationship, but it does make sense. I love wolves and any study in comparison is good for me :-)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Actually, Odin had two ravens that he kept on his shoulders, Hugin and Munin...but did you know that? Are you familiar with the legend? Thanks for the votes!

    • KrisL profile image

      KrisL 4 years ago from S. Florida

      Great, your "ravens and crows" hub led me here, which was even more interesting.

      The picture I'm forming of a raven harassing or playfully annoying a wolf is just amazing!

      I wonder whether the raven-wolf association led both to be associated with the Norse God Odin (of course both were also battlefield scavengers, so it might have been that alone).

      Voted "awesome."

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, suziecat. Ravens and crows are both remarkable. They are both corvids and can solve a lot of problems and use tools.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 4 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Really interesting Hub. I've always loved crows but have only seen a few ravens. Learned much here - voted up!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, thelyricwriter. These two animals have a great relationship, and others also do the same. I'm glad that you enjoyed this piece.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 4 years ago from West Virginia

      Voted up, useful, and interesting. Deb, this was a great article, fun to read, and very interesting. I must say that I would have never compared the raven and wolf. Then come to find out, they are very well related. The gun shots, wolf calls, it all makes sense to me now. I never would have thought about that. I never knew they was scared of a carcass,, but their beak tells that story. So interesting Deb. Really enjoyed this article. Best wishes. Would love to read more articles like this, comparing odd animals, well odd relationships that is. Truly fascinating:)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad that you enjoyed it, Highland Terrier. There have been many more studies done, and I will get into more at a later date.

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I absolutely became fascinated by this hub and the info it gave. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought Ravens to be like this. So I went and found out that everything you say in this hub is correct.

      Iwould never have known if not for you.

      Thank you very much.

      Voted up, awesome, useful and everything else

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Connie, large carcasses cause them consternation. For starters, they can't get into a solid carcass without help.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Her, Mhatter! Crows can be characters, too. They are in the same family as ravens.

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      I did not know about the relationship between ravens and wolves. There are ravens here, but I have never seen one that wasn't flying overhead, except one time when one was working at a road-kill squirrel. I hear their wooden 'wonk, wonk' as they fly above the trees. Are they fearful of just the larger animals I wonder? Very interesting and informative. Voted Up, Interesting and Awesome.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      We have crows. And have they changed since I was a kid. they work in numbers, They seem to sense fear. If they split up... watch out!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      No, Highland Terrier, they are not everywhere, but they are in many places. They don't need others, but it sure makes it easier for them. Both tend to contribute to the cause. Ravens will help wolves and dogs both(same family, you know). In Maine, we had no wolves, but they didn't hang with the coyotes, either, who tend to be more self centered.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      That's really interesting, Letitia, thanks for giving me that bit of info. They could well pick up the trail, or could have had it for quite some time...

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I appreciate that, Joyce. You're right, they are very crafty, but they are fair...

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      kashmir, I still have a great deal to learn about the raven.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Mycee, thanks so much for the compliment.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      That was something that I have never heard about before, Pamela. I called to a group of juveniles one day while I was doing repairs to my house in Maine. Two out of the group of five interlocked beaks and did a 360 for me. Then they joined the others.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Any time, gamby. The Raven is quiet a poem, and ravens are surprising birds. If they like you, they will do whatever they can to help. Mine in Maine used to bring me mice.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Larry Fields. The more that one delves into the lives of birds, the more interesting it becomes. All the Corvidae in general are highly intelligent, making and using tools AND solving problems.

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I don't understand this information, are therenot ravens everywhere? Do they not survive quite well without wolfs and other predators to kill for them. Do they not also feed on other foodstuffs besides carasses?

      Am I confusing my birds? ???

    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 4 years ago from Paris via California

      That's really interesting. I've had the chance to see ravens interact with griffon vultures in France in much the same way, signaling prey and cleaning up on what remains when the vultures have opened them up. They also mercilessly tease young vultures that are learning to fly. Now that the wolves are returning to France, I wonder if they'll pick up the evolutionary trail with them? Also, very interesting point about ravens as indicators of poachers...

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Great hub for us to enjoy reading about this crafty Raven.

      Voted up and very enjoyable, Joyce.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great and well written hub, much of this information i did not know before, thanks for helping me learn more about the raven.

      Vote up and more !!!

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      You are one excellent writer about birds. Maybe you could compile all your work and put it on a book. Amazing ideas.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      I really enjoyed reading this newest hub of yours, aviannovice.

      Visiting family in Saskatchewan, I was amazed this past winter at the size of the ravens. Their wingspans are so big. One of the most astounding sights I've ever seen in the bird world was one day as we were traveling down a highway, suddenly eight or nine huge-wingspanned ravens came -- as though being lifted -- and passing our view. In my rearview mirror I could see what might have been a carcass of a coyote on the shoulder of the highway. It was surreal the way the eight or nine birds lifted themselves past our view and upward as though they were one body.

      Your great knowledge and research is appreciated. Voting up and sharing.

    • gamby79 profile image

      gamby79 4 years ago

      This article was very interesting to me. Thanks for giving us more insight into the raven. Every time I even hear the word 'raven' it brings back so many memories. As you know...I think I've told you before..my Dad used to be able to quote Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Raven' verbatim. He can still quote some. but not word for word with no mistakes like he could in his younger years. Thanks for yet another lesson in learning! :)

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

      I knew that Corvids (and members of the extended parrot family) were the Einsteins of the bird world. But I had no idea that ravens were this smart. Voted up and interesting.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Jeannie I lived with them on a daily basis when I returned to ME for three years. They are very remarkable and intelligent birds.

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      Jeannie Dibble 4 years ago

      Bravo whonunuwho, wonderful writing..thanks...

      Saw my first Raven at age 58 in Canada. I was rather amazed and happy to see Canada enjoys their marvelous bird...

      Thanks Deb for giving us such great info on the Raven...

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, whonunuwho. I enjoy the relationships between living things.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

      "Much I marveled this ungainly fowl"..Never more..Quoth the raven..words by Poe in his poem about the raven...You and I know the raven is beautiful and very intelligent.. quite the masterful work in nature. I am a appreciator of all birds , the fowls of the airways, and their great grace and beauty. A nice work about the raven and all of its abilities. As for the wolf..let him be for he can well take care of himself and his needs, no matter where his whims may take him. I see your point in the title of your work. Thanks for sharing.

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