Northern Minnesota wolves maintain clear boundaries

GPS images show the movements of wolves in Voyageurs National Park in far northern Minnesota. (IMAGE: Voyageurs Wolves Project)

Scientists with the Voyageurs Wolf Project study the behavior of wolves in Northern Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park. One recent social media post shows how wolves maintain their territory.

As you see above, collared wolves from different packs move a great deal in pursuit of prey. But they almost never encroach on the territory of neighboring packs.

In another map shared in the same post we see the packs organized by the names researchers used to identify them. It’s almost like looking at a storybook map.

This map shows the wolves’ territories with descriptions of area landmarks. Seeing this example from the natural world, it’s not hard to see how early humans would go on to form nations.

How do the wolves know the borderlines between territories? The short and dirty answer is pee. More politely, scent. Wolves establish territory based on their own highly refined sense of smell. Any given wolf encountering the smell of another pack instinctively knows to retreat back to familiar environs.

Just as with the borders of human nations, encroachment of these boundaries would only occur during truly desperate circumstances. Wolves know that the best thing is to subsist in their own land without the risks associated with fighting other wolves. However, lack of food or destroyed habitat would cause a chain reaction that could reorganize the entire power structure.

So it has been for all time. True for wolves. True for human beings.

(h/t Jay Boller in City Pages)


  1. Dawnette Davis says

    Fascinating! Thank you and happy holidays.

  2. One day I was working in our parish center basement. Found an old map titled: Provence of Saint Paul (spelled with ‘e’) subtitled: Parish Boundaries. Looked a lot like this. Pretty much the same thing.

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