What are some of the ways in which a wolf will show affection to a potential mate?
Wolves show affection to each other by touching, like people do. A wolf express affection by licking. A pair like 21 and 42, the main characters in The Reign of Wolf 21, frequently licked each other. They also bedded down together and, in that position, the 21 would sometimes drape a front paw over the shoulder of his mate.
What makes 21 and 42’s relationship so remarkable to you in comparison to the relationships of other wolves you have encountered?
A striking aspect of their relationship was its length. Both lived to be about nine years old and they met when they were 2 ½. They were together every day for over six years, about 45 human years.
What was most enjoyable to you about observing 21 and 42’s relationship develop over time?
21 was a big tough male who never lost a fight with rival wolf, but he acknowledged 42 as the leader of their pack, not himself. She made all the major decisions and he went along with her agenda.
40 is clearly the antagonist when it comes to 42’s relationship with 21, but 40 is also 42’s sister. What do you think makes 40’s personality so different from 42’s?
I think 40 fundamentally was insecure. She expressed that by driving out her own mother from the pack and later her other sister. After that she directed aggression against 42.
Why do you think 21 and 42 are so compatible with each other, even after so many years spent together?
The contrast between the two sisters made 42’s relationship with 21 more intriguing to watch because you could see how their personalities and characters were in such perfect sync. When 42 finally stood up to her sister and took over the alpha female position it made 21’s life much easier.
In what ways does having such an affectionate mate change a wolf? 21 and 40 are described as having similar temperaments, but do you think their personalities would have been different had they not been able to be together?
It is hard to image 42 finding another male that would have been such a perfect match for her. I think 21 brought the best in her and she did the same for him. He relied on her to run the pack while he concentrated on what he was best at: going out on hunts to feed the family and protecting the pack from rival wolves.
How does having an alpha pair so devoted to each other affect the attitudes and wellbeing of the pack?
21 and 42 were role models for the younger wolves in the family so they grew up with that understanding of how to behave and how to interact with your pack mates.
You’ve been observing and recording the Yellowstone wolves for many years. What has been one of the highlights of observing the wolves’ lives, relationships and rivalries unfold over the years?
The story of 21 and 42 will always be the highlight of my years watching wolves. There will never be another pair like them. The time I spent documenting their lives was the golden age for wolves in Yellowstone.