Using the Y Pole to Catch a Wolf

People can get very upset when they hear the word “dominance” used.   I will NEVER promote punitive or demeaning actions towards a dog or wolf.   Call it leadership with confidence.  In this video I call it “compassionate dominance”.  Whatever we wish to call it, here is a video demonstrating the use of the Y pole which is much more humane and safe for the wolf than catching them with nets.

Catching a Mexican Wolf Using Y Poles

For an awesome article on the Y Pole and how to make them – visit our Free Training Library.

I would love your comments!


9 Responses

  1. That was totally cool. The wolf was frightened in the beginning and when you were all done, he/she looked so relaxed. That is an awe inspiring tool.

    • Yes, every animal shelter in North America knows about the snare pole, but few are aware of the Y pole and how to use it. People who think we use it as a stick to simply pin the animal say this tool is worthless, and they are right! For them it will be. Those using calmness, compassion, and dominance will be far more successful. Mark

  2. As Tract said, I was impressed by how relaxed the wolf looked when it was released. Very nice.

    Regarding the video, I think it would be helpful (and utterly fascinating) if the first part of the process was filmed with two cameras – one showing a close up of the wolf so we could see its body language clearly and a second one panned out far enough to show all the handlers. Then – show both simultaneously on a split screen so one can see how changes in the handler’s stance, pole handling, gaze, movement etc affect the wolf’s behavior. Two video cameras with their clocks synchronized should be able to do this (I think).

    And – I have a couple of questions: When you are dealing with a feral dog who isn’t in a fenced enclosure, what kind of space do you look for to capture it in? Do you sometimes have to drive a dog some distance into a space where it can be captured? If so, what are the limitations of this kind of capture. And – do you use smaller y-poles for dogs, especially small dogs?

    • Janeen, thank you for your comments. There were indeed two synchronized cameras and there are only so many things one is able to film at one time. I chose the camera which showed both the wolf and the handler (me) when it first bites. When the wolf is lying down and submitting, essentially all of the communication is with the head, face and ears. I am not sure how it could be shown any better.

      Great questions. Y poles are not a capture device for free-ranging dogs, although there are exceptions. I have been consulting for Animal Balance who just finished a trap/neuter/release program and Paulina Y-poled a feral dog softly against a palm tree! That is unusual. The Y pole is primarily for fearful dogs in a kennel, room, pens, etc so they can be moved to a wall or corner. It is still an essential tool for animal shelters who use snare poles on dogs in kennels. My goal is to see that every animal shelter in North America are aware of the Y pole.

      Options to capture free-ranging dogs (with the energy to go after them) are leashes or nets. Options to capture them by bringing them to you is the boxtrap for individual dogs or capture pens for packs of dogs.

      Yes, if you visit my Y pole page on my website it encourages people to make many different sizes for different dogs. At the California Wolf Center, they use wider forks for the hips and shorter handles for when they have to handle wolves by crawling into their fire shelter/den!

      Thank you for the great questions! Mark

  3. First of all I would really like to thank you, Dr. Mark, for all
    your help and teaching …

    My husband and I were invited a couple of months ago by Animal Balance to be volunteers in a T/N/R campaign in Samoa. Our team job was to capture and handling the semi-feral pack of dogs. We have been dog trainers for many years but this challenge was new. We had some ideas but we needed more than ideas and that’s how we found your GWR web site. It opened our minds to new concepts and tools, especially the Y-Pole.

    After reading the entire site, we knew it will be very helpful to have
    a more in-depth consultation with you and the volunteers for Animal Balance to visit about our project in Samoa. Your consultation really helped us with the campaign over there.

    Unfortunately, our boxtraps did not arrive on time so we needed to think differently. We had a couple of Y-poles, leashes, food and a syringe pole. We knew that the Y-poles had their limitation without a wall behind the animal or corner, but we still tried to find alternative and creative ways.

    The first time I used a palm tree as the backstop, and i have to say that
    this time was amazing! At first, the dog was fighting so much and it was
    hard to use the syringe pole to administer the drug to calm him. We were surrounded by palm trees then slowly I approached and put him against one. The dog calmed down!

    And, yes, it’s true that free-rooming dogs are hard to catch with just
    Y-Poles, but it is also true that sometimes there is something that can be use to help. Once, we lured a difficult dog to approach to a chicken wire box that was made into the floor and the Y-Pole was very helpful again in that situation.

    We soon learned over there that capturing a dog with a leash was
    possible but too stressful for the dog and the team. It was almost
    always necessary to use a different tool. Nets and Y poles were the only tools we had as the boxtraps did not arrive. If we had had them, the T/N/R journey would be a much more easy for everybody.

    Dr. Mark, thanks again for all your advice and we are looking forward
    to learning more about your techniques and knowledge and of course, your energy and points views… Calm and humane.

    paulina de velasco + ludovic teurbane

  4. As a trainer who has worked with a wide array of species, (including various raptors, wolves, dog, cats, cormorants, wild ducks, ground squirrels, opossums, etc.), I appreciate very much that you are trying to find more humane ways to take care of husbandry needs.

    I especially appreciate your interest in humane techniques because my work with wild animals has been primarily about improving their quality of life, including teaching them to willingly enter crates, get on scales, allow handling, and other necessary procedures.

    I wonder, though, why places such as the Dakota Zoo have not engaged trainers skilled in the up-to-date application of operant and classical conditioning techniques, so that you would not have to corner and pin the wolves in the first place? So many zoos and wildlife parks have proven the effectiveness of this approach that I guess I hadn’t realized that there are still places which do not train their captive animals for husbandry procedures, as well as to generally lower their stress in their captive environments.

    Also, I wondered if the Dakota Zoo uses captive bred wolves, and if not, why not? If they are using captive-bred wolves, then I can’t help wondering why they are not hand-reared, to make living as a captive animal, surrounded by humans, less stressful for them? (Or, if they are hand-reared, why was that wolf still so fearful?)

    Lastly, does the wolf in that video live alone? If so, why, and for how long?

    Thank you,

    Sarah Mullen

    • Sarah,
      Thank you for your great questions and input. I totally agree that when possible training is far better than handling unsocialized animals. I was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the San Diego Zoo and was in awe of the relationship between the caretakers and their animals.

      I passed your questions on to Terry Lincoln, the director of the Dakota Zoo. He strives to handle his animals with as much care and compassion as he can and I know he is always very professional and open to new ways of doing things. Here is what Terry had to say: The wolf in question is an endangered Mexican Gray Wolf. These wolves are purposely kept “wild” in captivity, in the event that they or their offspring are someday needed for release into the wild. The male in the video, “Tostito,” has received a reversable vasectomy, owing to the fact that his bloodline is probably not needed for future breeding but in the event that there is a problem, he can hopefully rejoin the breeding/release program. For this reason, we work hard to keep these wolves from being too conditioned to humans, including training them to move by voice command, enter certain areas they are trained to do, etc. We do conduct a lot of natural enrichment for them including the introduction of various natural play toys that include what they would experience in the wild (brush piles, deer bones, deer hides, etc.) In our efforts to treat the animals under our care with the utmost respect, we are very excited to be able to handle the wolves with tools such as Y-poles when appropriate, and utilize chemical immobilization over netting operations that could potentially cause stress.

      Thank you for your wonderful input. Mark

  5. Dear Mark,

    I’m one of the members of Animal Friends Jogja, a non-profit organization in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. We work voluntary to be the voice for animals through proactive education and advertising campaigns, research, rescues and working with related organizations and or communities, and grassroots activism.
    Recently, we went up to a hill of Mount Batur [69 km away from our town] where feral dogs were being hunted down by farmers & military who accused them attacking goats. There was no evidence nor documentation that can prove it was the dogs who did such things. According to the farmers, 80 goats have been killed during the past 2 months. Based on the information gathered from villagers, the dogs have owners, there are only 2 families in the village who own dogs, they release the dogs on the mountain to guard their plants from macaques [macaque fascicularis] attack. But they never feed the dogs, and the dogs got very hungry & attack the goats they raise up on the mountain next to their plantation site.
    3 adult dogs have been killed by shotguns, 6 puppies were poisoned to death, 3 adult dogs are still roaming on the mountain. We made our way there on March 12, 2011, joining the team of villagers & military on their hunting, we persuaded them not to kill the dogs, but other team that went to different side of the hill didn’t listen to us, they managed to trap one dog & shot him while he was already tied up! There are still 3 alive dogs roaming, we really want to save them, but unfortunately some villagers still refuse to catch them alive because it’s very hard to catch the dogs roaming up on the hilly mountain. What should we do? Our organization is new & lack of experience still, we have no boxtrap, only 1 donated net to capture stray cats. We have to race with the villagers. They finally said if we can get the dogs ourselves, they won’t kill the dogs. We need immediate suggestions from you. Is there any detail instructions on do-it-yourself boxtrap as we cannot afford to buy one? What’s the best way to humanely capture the dogs while their roaming area is very broad & hilly?
    Please reply to this as soon as possible, we’re still negotiating with the villagers, keep on trying to persuade them not to kill the dogs. But we have to move fast.
    Thank you very much.
    Ina [on behalf of Animal Friends Jogja/AFJ]

    • Dear Ina,
      You are doing wonderful work. There are no immediate solutions that I can give you. Creating the capability to catch dogs in large open areas takes time. I will offer some ideas, but they will not be ideal for you. I expect that you will have to work hard to embrace these new concepts and work in ways that are not typical of your local habits or culture. You will have to modified these strategies for fit your situation… and it will take time.

      First of all, I suggest you contact the Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health Program (SARAH) in Sikkim India. They are working with military camps to catch dogs running in the forests. They are very professional and caring and have some of the best dog handlers in India.

      One step is to start creating bait stations where local people will feed dogs each day. This requires strong working relationship with the people which also takes time. The purpose of the bait station is to attract dogs to a location where you can catch them. The best location to feed the dogs, which may have to be built, is an area that has four walls with a open gate. This could be built with bricks, though I understand that that is not cheap either. In Delhi I have see unused lots with brick walls that could easily be modified. Ideally there would also be a back open gate to create more confidence with the dogs. And ideally you would have 3 or 4 locations and feed for several weeks so that the dogs add those locations to their travel patterns. Though one feeding station would be awesome. Do not catch dogs in there too often, maybe once every two weeks or so, so they are not too afraid to enter to eat. Have them leave feed at sunrise and sunset. On the day you are to capture, have them close the back gate.

      Then the challenge is to catch them. Find a source of nets – which yes, you will have to buy or get donated. You can also use the sack method which is made from two burlap sacks sewn together with 8 metal rings on the top edge and a long rope which is used to close the bag after if it is thrown over the dog. I will be writing about this method as soon as possible. It is used commonly by Help in Suffering in Jaipur and by other programs in India.

      You can also catch the dogs in the enclosure by making “dog shelters” made of scrap wood. Place them in the back corners of the enclosure. A line of people can slowly and calmly move the dog toward the dog shelter and most dogs will enter the shelter to get away. Put nets on both ends of the line so if the dog tries to run around the line and along the wall, you can catch it with the net. If they run in the boxt, you can then close the door and lift the roof or put a net or sack over the entrance and lift the roof to move the dog into the net or sack. Always remember to work the dogs in as calm a manner as possible.

      This is just one way and it may sound crazy, but there are some very practical concepts here for you to possibly use. Over the coming year I will try to better describe and show how these methods can be used. I sincerely wish you success. Dr. Mark

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