Canis lupus Wolves & Ravens
"One of the most fascinating relationships between animals is the one that seems to exist between wolves and ravens. The raven, scavenger of food of all types. People who study animal behavior think they may have found out why wolves hunt in packs — because ravens are such good scavengers. Dinner Guests: How Wolves and Ravens Coexist at Kills site of the longest large-mammal predator-prey relationship study ever conducted.
White Wolf : Wolves and Ravens; A Fascinating Relationship (Photos)
Source 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? 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. Ultimately, ravens can scavenge as much as a third of what wolves kill. Perhaps wolves live in groups to reduce losses to scavenging ravens.
The Raven and the Wolf—a Study in Symbiosis
Larger packs, despite the cost of sharing with more pack mates, might do better than smaller packs by minimizing losses to scavenging ravens. Assessing this idea, would require accounting for how all the costs and benefits of foraging change with pack size. After a great deal of calculating and figuring, it seems that ravens offer wolves a reason to live in packs.
Wolves living in larger packs lose less of what they kill to scavengers. The red line is what wolves kill on a per wolf basis. The green line represents what each wolf get to eat net energy gain, actually when losses to ravens are taken into account.
When you catch something big, you must be prepared to deal with scavengers. Some species, like cougars, lions, and cheetahs hide the carcasses of their prey or cache them out of reach from scavengers.
Wolves have a different strategy. The faster a carcass is consumed, the less that is given to ravens.
Wolves have two adaptations for fast eating. But one can also see other ways in which the raven is related to this word. Erev, or dusk, is the time when day mixes with night. In fact, the word for mixture in Hebrew is ervuv. Ravens are a mixture in that they are the only bird to possess two of the signs of kosher birds as well as two of the signs of non-kosher birds — a true mixture.
The Midrash notes that the raven also has a tendency to mix even when mixing is forbidden: Ham, the raven, and the dog. Perhaps it is for this reason that the chieftains of Midian are called Ze'ev and Orev by the Torah. The crime of Midian was to send their girls to mix and intermingle with the Jewish People. Ravens and wolves are both creatures that represent dusk, the mixture of light and dark, and also mixing in general.
Furthermore they mix with each other, mammal with bird. The dusky ravens and wolves of dusk are both symbols of the mixing of two distinct realms.
In a commentary to Exodus 8: Bernd Heinrich in "Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds" wrote: The wolves' howls before they go on a hunt, and it is a signal that the birds learn to heed.
Conversely, wolves may respond to certain raven vocalizations or behavior that indicate prey. The raven-wolf association may be close to a symbiosis that benefits the wolves and ravens alike.