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Copyright 2004Tara K. H arper.  All rights reserved.

Tara K. Harper:  Author's Note
Owning Wild and Exotic Animals

Why Include an Author's Note  in My Books?
Author's Note  on Owning Wild and Exotic Animals
Links  to Predator and Conservation Links    


Photo by Tara K. Harper.  All rights reserved.

Male tiger in a jungle in northern India.

Also a bit of humor:
Why Dogs are Better Pets


Copyright 2000 Tara K. Harper

All rights reserved.  It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted text without permission in writing from Tara K. Harper.  Permission to download this file for personal use only is hereby granted by Tara K. Harper.

To request permission to copy and distribute the information in this file, send a written request on the letterhead of your organization to  Tara K. Harper, PO Box 23-0107, Tigard, OR 97281-0107.  Include a description of your organization, as well as your organization's charter statement.

Note:  A wild animal is an indigenous, nondomesticated species.  An exotic animal is a nonindigenous, nondomesticated species.  For example, timber wolves, cougars, rattlesnakes and some species of turtle are native to North America, and so are called "wild" animals (in North America).  Hedgehogs, pythons and tigers are nonnative animals, so are considered "exotic" animals (in North America).

The URL for this file is:   http://www.tarakharper.com/an_anim.htm

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Why Include an Author's Note
in My Books?

When the Wolfwalker books were published, I started getting letters from readers who said I had inspired them to go out and buy wolves for pets.  I was horrified.  Wolves as pets--that is the antithesis of everything a wolfwalker-wolf bond is in my novels.  Turning a wild animal into a pet, confining the animal to a house or apartment--or worse, a cage masquerading as a dog run--is, to me, cruel and irresponsible.  

In my Wolfwalker books, a human and a wolf are biochemically and emotionally bonded.  They acquire the ability to understand each other through "telepathy."  However, in my books, these engineered, science-fictional wolves are still wolves.  They still need to run with their own kind, to form complex relationships with each other, to hunt, play, mate, etc.

The wolves do not join humans in cities or towns. Instead, the wolves are joined in the forests by the wolfwalkers to whom they are bonded.  A wolf might stay with its wolfwalker briefly in a city or town, but the wolf is not comfortable in such an environment.  The wolf always exerts a strong emotional and mental pull on its wolfwalker to return to its wilderness.  In my stories, wolfwalkers must adapt to the wolf's world, not the other way around.

"...For the animal shall not be measured by man.
In a world older and more complete than ours,
they move finished and complete,
gifted with extensions and the senses we have lost or never attained,
living by voices we shall never hear.
They are not brethren, they are not underlings,
they are other nations..."

-Henry Beston

I do not promote the purchase or keeping of wolves as pets.   Forcing wolves and other wild and exotic animals to become pets is, in my opinion, selfish, cruel, and irresponsible behavior.

If my stories have "inspired" you to go out and get a wolf as a pet, stop now.  Take a serious look at what you're doing.  This is the here and now, not some futuristic, smoke-and-mirrors fantasy.  My novels may make certain social statements in a science-fiction setting, but the stories are still fiction.  The reality is that today's wolves are wild animals with wild-animal requirements.  Don't subject such animals to the confined, unhealthy, and unnatural environment of your town, house, or apartment.

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Author's Note:

Owning Wild and Exotic Animals

Owning Wild and Exotic Animals
Domesticating a Wild Animal
Training Wolves and Wolf-Dog Hybrids
Zoos and Abandoned Pets
Dietary Requirements of Wild and Exotic Animals
Veterinary Bills and Insurance
Damages, Injuries, and Disease
Continuing the Species
Conservation and Sponsorship


Owning Wild and Exotic Animals

Wolves, wolf-dog hybrids, and exotic and wild cats might seem like romantic pets.  The sleekness of the musculature, the mystique and excitement of keeping a wild animal as a companion...  For many owners, wild and exotic animals symbolize freedom and wilderness.  For other owners, wild animals from wolves to bobcats to snakes provide a status symbol--something that makes the owner interesting.  Many owners claim they are helping keep an animal species from becoming extinct, that they care adequately for their pet's needs, and that they love wild creatures.

However, most predator and wild or exotic animals need to range over wide areas.  They need to be socialized with their own species.  They need to know how to survive, hunt, breed, and raise their young in their own habitat. And each species' needs are different.

A solitary wolf, without the companionship of other wolves with whom it forms sophisticated relationships, can become neurotic and unpredictable.  A cougar, however, stakes out its own territory and, unless it is mating or is a female raising its young, usually lives and hunts as a solitary predator.  Both wolves and cougars can range fifty to four hundred square miles over the course of a year.  Keeping a wolf or cougar as a pet is like raising a child in a closet.

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Domesticating a Wild Animal

Wild animals are not easily domesticated.  Even when raised from birth by humans, these animals are dramatically different from domestic animals.  Wild animals are dangerous and unpredictable, even though they might appear calm or trained, or seem too cute to grow dangerous with age.  Wolves and exotic cats make charming, playful pups and kittens, but the adult creatures are still predators.

For example, lion kittens are cute, ticklish animals that like to be handled (all kittens are).  They mouth things with tiny, kitten teeth.  But adult cats become solitary, highly territorial and possessive predators.  Some will rebel against authority, including that of the handlers they have known since birth.  They can show unexpected aggression.  Virtually all wild and exotic cats, including ocelots, margay, serval, cougar, and bobcat, can turn vicious as they age.

Monkeys and other nonhuman primates also develop frustrating behavior as they age.  Monkeys keep themselves clean and give each other much-needed, day-to-day social interaction and reassurance by grooming each other.  A monkey kept by itself can become filthy and depressed, and can begin mutilating itself (pulling out its hair and so on).  When a monkey grows up, it climbs on everything, vocalizes loudly, bites, scratches, exhibits sexual behavior toward you and your guests, and, like a wolf, marks everything in its territory with urine.  It is almost impossible to housebreak or control a monkey.

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Training Wolves and Wolf-Dog Hybrids

Many people think they can train wolves in the same manner that they train dogs.  They cannot. Even if well cared for, wolves do not act as dogs do.  Wolves howl.  They chew through almost anything, including tables, couches, walls and fences.  They excavate 10-foot pits in your back yard.  They mark everything with urine and cannot be housetrained.  (Domestic canid breeds that still have a bit of wolf in them can also have some of these natural tendancies or traits.)  Punishing a wolf for tearing up your recliner or urinating on the living room wall is punishing the animal for instinctive and natural behavior.

Wolf-dog hybrids have different needs than both wolves and dogs, although they are closer in behavior and needs to wolves than dogs.  These hybrids are often misunderstood, missocialized and mistreated until they become vicious or unpredictable fear-biters.  For wolf-dog hybrids, the signs of neurosis and aggression that arise from being isolated, mistreated or misunderstood most often result in the wolf-dogs being euthanized.

Dissatisfied or frustrated owners cannot simply give their hybrids to new owners; it is almost impossible for a wolf-dog to transfer its attachment to another person.  And, when abandoned or released into the wild by owners, hybrids may also help dilute wolf and coyote strains, creating more hybrids caught between the two disparate worlds of domestic dogs and wild canids.

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Zoos and Abandoned Pets

Zoos cannot usually accept exotic or wild animals that have been kept as pets.  In general, pet animals are not socialized and do not breed well or coexist with other members of their own species.  Because such pets do not learn the social skills to reproduce, they are unable to contribute to the preservation of their species . They seem to be miserable in the company of their own kind, yet have become too dangerous to remain with their human owners.  Especially with wolves and wolf-dog hybrids, the claim that many owners make about their pets being one-person animals usually means that those animals have been dangerously unsocialized.

Zoo workers may wish they could rescue every mistreated animal from every inappropriate owner, but the zoos simply do not have the resources to take in pets.  Zoos and wildlife rehabilitation centers receive thousands of requests each year to accept animals that can no longer be handled or afforded by owners. State agencies confiscate thousands more that are abandoned, mistreated or malnourished.

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Dietary Requirements of Wild and Exotic Animals

The dietary requirements of exotic or wild animals are very different from those of domesticated pets.  For example, exotic and wild felids require almost twice as much protein as canids and cannot convert carotene to Vitamin A--an essential nutrient in a felid's diet.  A single adult cougar requires two to three pounds of prepared meat each day, plus vitamins and bones.  A cougar improperly fed on a diet of chicken or turkey parts or red muscle meat can develop rickets and blindness.

One example of the malnutrition often seen in domesticated or "pet" wild or exotic felids is that of a 6-month-old cougar, who jumped down from a dining room chair and broke both his front legs.  He was so severely malnourished that his bones would not support his own weight.

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Veterinary Bills and Insurance

The veterinary bills for exotic and wild animals are outrageously expensive--if an owner can find a vet who knows enough about exotic animals to treat the pet. And it is difficult to take out additional insurance in order to keep such an animal as a pet.  Standard homeowner's policies do not cover damages or injuries caused by wild or exotic animals.  Some insurance companies will drop clients who keep wild animals as pets.

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Damages, Injuries, and Disease

Wild and exotic animals do not damage property or cause injuries because they are inherently vicious.  What humans call property damage is to the animal natural territorial behavior, play, den-making or child-rearing behavior.

Traumatic injuries (including amputations and death) to humans most often occur because the animal is protecting its food, territory, or young; because it does not know its own strength compared to humans; or because it is being mistreated.  A high proportion of wild- and exotic-animal attacks are directed at human children.  Almost all attacks on human children can be attributed to abuse or mistreatment of the animal by the child.

Although traumatic injuries are common, humans are also at risk from the diseases and organisms that undomesticated or exotic animals can carry.  Rabies is just one threat in the list of over 150 infectious diseases and conditions that can be transmitted between animals and humans.

These diseases and conditions include intestinal parasites, Psittacosis (a species of chlamydaia), cat-scratch fever, measles, and tuberculosis (TB).  Hepatitis A (infectious hepatitis) can be transmitted to humans through contact with minute particles in the air (aerosol transmission) or through contact with blood (bites, scratches, etc.).  Hepatitis A has been found in its subclinical state in over ninety percent of wild chimps, and chimps are infectious for up to sixty days at a time.  The Herpesvirus simiae, which has a seventy percent or greater mortality rate in humans, can be contracted from macaques.

Pen-breeding, a method used by far too many suppliers of wild and exotic animals, only increases an animal's risk of disease.  This is because raising animals in concentrated populations also concentrates the vectors for bacteria and viruses.

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Continuing the Species

Taking an exotic or wild animal from its natural habitat does not help keep the species from becoming extinct.

All wolf species and all feline species (except for the domestic cat) are either threatened, endangered, or protected by national or international legislation.  All nonhuman primates are in danger of extinction; and federal law prohibits the importation of nonhuman primates to be kept as pets.  In some states, such as Arizona, it is illegal to own almost any kind of wild animal.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service advises that you conserve and protect endangered species.  Do not buy wild or exotic animals as pets.

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Conservation and Sponsorship

If you would like to become involved with endangered species or other wildlife, consider supporting a wolf, exotic cat, whale, or other wild animal in its own habitat or in a reputable zoo.  You can contact your local reputable zoo, conservation organization, or state department of fish and wildlife for information about supporting exotic or wild animals.  National and local conservation groups can also give you an opportunity to help sponsor an acre of rainforest, wetlands, temperate forest, or other parcel of land.


Photo by Tara K. Harper.  All rights reserved.

Mother and baby rhino, wading through a swamp in the Nepalese jungle.

There are many legitimate organizations that will use your money to establish preserves in which endangered species can live in their natural habitat.  The internationally recognized Nature Conservancy is such an organization.  For information about programs sponsored by The Nature Conservancy, please write to:

The Nature Conservancy
1815 N. Lynn Street Arlington,
Virginia 22209

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Special thanks to Janice Hixson, Dr. Jill Mellen, Ph.D., Dr. Mitch Finnegan, D.V.M., Metro Washington Park Zoo; Karen Fishler, The Nature Conservancy; Harley Shaw, General Wildlife Services; Dr. Mary-Beth Nichols, D.V.M.; Brooks Fahy, Cascade Wildlife Rescue; and the many others who provided information, sources, and references for this project.

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Links to predator, conservation, and other sites

"We humans fear the beast within the wolf, because we do not understand the beast within ourselves."
                             - Gerald Hausman, mythologist and author

The Nature Conservancy

Wolf Park

       

Envirolink Network

The Tiger Information Center

US Long-Term Ecological Research Network

Restore America's Estuaries

National Parks and Conservation

World Resource Institute Biodiversity Site

National Audubon Society

US Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species

World Wildlife Federation

Endangered Species Page

World Wildlife Fund

Rainforest Alliance

Note:   For information about wolf research and habitats, refer to the internationally recognized research and conservation organization, Wolf Park, located in Indiana.  In contrast, Wolf Haven International is a haven whose denizens, last time I checked, were almost exclusively wolf-dog hybrids, not wolves.  Although hybrids are closer to wolves than to domesticated dogs in behavior, they are still unable to interact well with pure-blooded wolves.  Most hybrids are rescued animals.  However; Wolf Haven does provide information about various species of wolves.  Wolf Haven also offers guests the opportunity to interact with the hybrids and gain a better understanding and appreciation of wolves themselves.


Copyright 2004 Tara K. Harper

All rights reserved.  It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted file without permission in writing from Tara K. Harper.  Permission to download this file for personal use only is hereby granted by Tara K. Harper.


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