The Raven and the Wolf—a Study in Symbiosis
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.
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.
- Common Raven Crowing - YouTube
A Common Raven calls from atop a snag at Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
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.
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.
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.