Wildlife series. Steve Backshall takes a look at dogs and their distant relatives, wolves. He heads to the Arctic Circle where huskies show him a thing or two about stamina.
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My name's Steve Backshall...
..and this is my search for the Deadly 60.
That's not just animals that are deadly to me...
but that are deadly in their own world.
My crew and I are travelling the planet, and you're coming with me
every step of the way!
This time on Deadly 60, we're doing things a little differently.
We're dealing with one wondrous family of animals
that comes in all different shapes and sizes.
We're travelling all over Europe - from up here in the frozen north
right down to where I live in the UK.
And what is that one family of animals? I wonder if you can guess.
That's right - it's the dogs.
In fact, we're dealing with the whole canine family,
including their wild ancestors.
The African hunting dog...
and Ethiopian wolves are all superbly adapted for hunting.
And we live right alongside many millions of these canine carnivores,
in the shape of the domestic dogs that share our homes.
There are over 150 different breeds of dog,
but all descended from one formidable wild force -
I'm going to track down some wolves later in the show.
Before I do, let's check out how some of their deadly attributes
are mirrored in the dogs we see around us every day.
I'm going to use dogs to display the uncanny canine capabilities
I just wouldn't be able to show you with wild wolves.
We have three sets of working dogs
to show you their special skills up close.
a Rottweiler rescue dog
and a trained police hound.
We're starting here in Norway, where it's a rather chilly minus 15.
The breed I'm going to look at first are these huskies.
They've been bred to work together.
and just like wolves, they can run for miles.
they're real specialists and they thrive in the cold.
Amongst working dogs, there's probably nothing that comes closer
to a pack of wolves than these guys. These are sled dogs -
specifically Alaskan huskies.
and look at those beautiful blue eyes.
Very much like you'd expect to see on a puppy wolf.
And those HUGE paws - great big, broad plates of meat
for keeping it up above the snow
and running at great speeds.
A pack of wolves spends as much as a third of their time on the move.
Come on, guys!
These huskies aren't as big as wolves, but have the same long legs,
enabling them to lope over vast distances using the minimum energy.
Here they go!
It's time to put them to the test.
These husky dogs have been bred over generations
for incredible endurance.
They have big hearts and lungs that can drive them along
at the same sort of pace as an Olympic sprinter - for hour on hour!
They can cover as much as 100 miles in a day.
Out here in the snow, that really is an incredible achievement.
they just function so well as a team together.
Just like a pack of wolves, every one of them has their own job
and they function beautifully as a unit.
They're just got boundless energy.
This is such a wonderful experience.
So huskies have extraordinary stamina, like marathon runners.
And, like wolves, if they WERE out hunting,
they'd certainly be able to keep up the chase.
But a wolf isn't deadly just because of its stamina.
They're also armed with a sensational sense of smell -
a trait that dogs have inherited.
That's enough. Right, you've said hello. It's dead. It's dead.
Throughout the dog family,
whether we're talking about wild dogs or domestic dogs,
there's one canine supersense that's more important than any other.
The nose and that superb sense of smell.
This is Sorrow. She's a Rottweiler
and her sense of smell is thousands of times more effective
than that of a human being.
If she was a wolf, she'd use it in the wild to track and locate prey.
But Sorrow has been trained to put her sense of smell
to a totally different use.
-She is a life-saver.
Sorrow's nose is a finely tuned tool.
She'll be using it to track me down underneath this thick snow.
If you're walking, climbing or skiing in these mountains,
by far the most frightening and dangerous thing is avalanches.
You try and imagine tons of ice and snow
coming plummeting down out of the hills.
It's quite easy for a person to get buried alive.
I can't imagine anything more frightening in the world.
But I'm about to try it out first hand.
This is a little Deadly 60 experiment
and all I've got to save me is Sorrow's magical nose.
-Hello. OK. Shall I climb in?
OK, have a got a camera to take in with me?
Thank you very much.
OK, guys. This is all a bit scary.
Let's just hope that that dog's nose is as good as they say.
Right, bury me, guys!
They've assured me that I'll be totally safe
under here in my snow cave.
But that doesn't make me feel any less nervous,
as they shovel in the snow, block out the light
and everything goes quiet.
OK, so now I'm buried alive...
which is all pretty spooky and very, very cold.
Obviously, if this was a real avalanche,
I wouldn't have any space at all and that would be VERY frightening.
I hope that dog comes quick.
Above ground, Sorrow and her handler are brought in,
but the clock is ticking.
As avalanches settle, the snow sets hard like concrete,
so a real victim could be injured, crushed AND out of air.
So it's down to dogs like Sorrow to save the day.
Just dying for the sound of some scrabbling paws overhead.
The dogs are trained to zigzag back and forth,
trying to pick up the scent of a buried person.
But Sorrow's got to search this entire hillside.
A well-trained sniffer dog's nose can distinguish between
the smell of people who've walked over the snow
and the faintest trace of a person hidden even ten metres beneath it,
by searching for human scent drifting up through the snow,
and then digging down towards the source.
I hear something.
I think I might have been found.
Dogs use powerful sniffs to draw in smells,
and the part of their brain that deals with smell
is much more developed than ours.
-My saviour! Hello! Look at that!
Come on, then!
Let's get out.
Where's my saviour? Come on, then. Come on, then!
-Sit, sit, sit.
That remarkable nose that's just sniffed me out under the snow
is exactly the same kind of nose
as you'll find throughout the dog family.
On a wolf, it'd be used to track down its prey.
So imagine not just one nose, but a whole pack
constantly testing the air for the first whiff of dinner.
The wolf uses all 220 million of its smell receptors to deadly use.
So that sensitive canine nose can sniff out its prey,
but how does it actually catch it?
Well, I'm travelling back to the UK to meet a special type of dog that,
just like its wolf cousin, can unleash a savage bite.
Avon and Somerset's police force use German shepherds to hunt down
and catch their criminals.
I don't want to get bitten by one of these German shepherds -
they have an incredible bite force.
So what I'm going to do is cover my arm using this -
the magic sleeve.
Up here it's hard, solid plastic and down here it's very heavily padded.
Hopefully, the dog will head for this, and I won't get bitten.
I can't pretend for a second that I'm not a little bit scared.
They love it when I get frightened.
Right. Now, I have to say that I'm going to be making a lot of noise
and probably looking like I'm in a lot of pain.
Don't worry. This is all part of the act.
I'm pretending that I'm a criminal -
I have to play that role right through,
otherwise the dog won't do his job.
OK. Nerves are rising a little bit, as is my heartbeat.
Let's get started.
OK, Justin! Let's go.
Justin is a police dog handler
and has been training his dog, Nero, for several years.
'I've got a mini camera in my left hand,
'so I hope he goes for the padded arm.'
-Come on! Come on!
I won't tell you again - stay there and calm down!
Come on! Come on! Come on! Ahhhh!
Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahh!
NERO GROWLS AND SNARLS
-Good boy, Nero!
-That was amazing!
Ah! Come on, then! Oh.
He's SO strong!
you can see, despite the fact that he's half my weight,
he uses it so effectively by bracing back with his legs
and using his whole body to clamp down and drag with those jaws.
-OK, Justin, I think he can come off now.
-Right. Criminal stand still!
He-he-hey! Good boy!
-How's about that?
From a raging morass of teeth
just completely quietened down by one single word from his trainer.
THAT is incredible intelligence.
When he's off duty, Nero is the family pet at home.
Justin's training secret is to have Nero's favourite toy with him,
so as soon as he calls, Nero will stop his attack and run off to play.
These bite experiments are crucial for keeping the dogs fit
and well practised for their police work.
But you can tell Nero loves it.
you certainly wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of one of those!
The raw aggression shown by police dogs
stems from the hunting instincts of wolves,
whose interlocking teeth can grip and hang onto struggling prey.
So, now we've seen the skills of our working dogs,
all experts at running,
but the wolf is a pro at all three.
And now it's time to try and find one in the wild.
We're heading to Romania.
Travelling in style, we're heading to a beautiful wildlife reserve
in the Carpathian Mountains.
-Comfy there, mate?
-Yeah, I'm all right. Are you?
Romania's home to Europe's largest population of grey wolves.
Local researchers have several hides set up in secret locations
throughout the forests.
This gives us our best chance for a real wild encounter.
Our mission to see a wild wolf is, well, a real mission.
In fact, there's probably nothing we've ever done on the Deadly 60
that's required more patience and more attention to detail.
Come with me.
-You all right?
And there's evidence here that these woods are home to other carnivores,
as well as wolves.
This here is where a bear has come in the night,
smelt food inside and scraped down here with its claws.
But that's nothing. Wait till you see inside.
Look at that!
A brown bear actually got in through there,
just bit away at the floorboards, climbed up. Scary stuff.
I hope that doesn't happen tonight.
This bed here, that's where someone can grab some shut-eye
when they're not on nightwatch duty.
That's my seat and this here...
is the infra-red camera which means that Johnny can film even in total darkness.
And out there is the clearing where we are hoping to see our wolves.
We've put down some old, rotting, smelly meat
and the wolves should pick up the scent from miles away. I can smell it from here.
There's also a small camera but I'm not going to go out there now
because my scent could drive the wolves away.
From here on in, it's just a waiting game.
So with all of our night-vision camera gear in place,
we get settled into the hide and start the long wait.
Once the sun goes down, the temperature plummets.
It's pretty dark outside now. All you can see with the naked eye, are shapes and shadows.
But we've got Johnny's infra-red camera here and I've a little monitor
so I should be able to see everything that he can see through the camera,
now it's just a question of sitting tight, keeping quiet,
and waiting for some sign of our wolves.
But it wasn't a wolf that first emerged from the shadows.
There's something moving there.
There! There, there, there!
It's a bear.
Can you see that, Johnny?
It's a brown bear.
This is a young male. He's not fully grown yet but you can still see
the large hump at the shoulder, much bigger in males.
This is wonderful for us, the brown bear is an old favourite of the Deadly 60.
But it's not great news in our search for wolves.
Wolves and bears don't tend to tolerate each other at food.
So while he's here the chances of wolves turning up are very slight.
The bear's been attracted to our rotten meat.
He steals a chunk and heads off.
With the bear gone, there's still a chance a wolf may appear.
But after the early excitement of the bear's visit, the night grows longer and colder.
Several hours later, I spot something on the monitor.
Oh, hang on!
There's something moving in the trees.
Can you see that? It's a wolf.
It's definitely a wolf.
Can you see him?
There, yes, yes, yes.
Oh, no! He's carrying his front left foot.
Can you see that? He's lame.
It's a little after midnight, our first wolf has come in to investigate the food.
Unfortunately he's got a bad left foot...
The front left paw is damaged, he's carrying it quite badly.
He's just nosing around... in the food.
He's always on the lookout for potential threats around him.
It may seem unusual that he's on his own,
but actually wolves can be solitary for large periods of their lives.
They don't spend all their time in packs.
Just have to hope that paw's going to get better.
Cos he's really going to struggle to hunt like that.
'But the fact he's feeding tonight means he's got a much better chance of recovery.'
To see a wild wolf in the forests of Transylvania,
I just cannot tell you enough
what a privilege this experience is.
It's such a shame that he's injured.
'After snuffling around the food, our wolf vanishes as quietly as he arrived,
'giving us just the briefest, fleeting glimpse of a truly wild predator.'
From Romania, we travel much farther north to a rather snowy Norway.
The wolves here at Polar Zoo give us an incredible opportunity to get
a much closer look.
So wolves are one of the hardest animals in the whole world to encounter in the wild.
But I do have a trick up my sleeve.
We're actually now in the Arctic Circle in Norway,
and behind this fence is a group of wolves that's kind of used to people.
I've also got Tess here who's going to watch my back.
She's going to be my bodyguard. Hi, Tess.
-Are you ready?
Absolutely, I think so!
Let's go on in.
I have to say now, these are not tame animals.
They're still wolves so we need to watch our back at all times
and just keep an eye on them.
Beyond that fence...look at that!
It's like coming into Jurassic Park.
Absolutely huge fences and gates but these are such canny animals,
they would escape if there was anything less.
Here they come!
Here we go.
All right... Come on, puppies!
Tess has been interacting with them since they were puppies,
but it's not going to be the same with us, particularly with the camera equipment.
By studying these socialised wolves up close, Tess and her team
are learning all about their body language and how they communicate.
< Now, if we sit down...
OK, I think this is typical.
Why wolves are so misunderstood and difficult to encounter in the wild.
They're obviously really inquisitive, they want to check out this new thing in their environment,
but at the same time they are very careful and cautious.
They don't want to come close to anything that could be dangerous.
Things are very different when there's prey around.
Wolves hunt large animals like deer that can be up to five times their body size,
and well-armed with sharp hooves and antlers.
The incredible stamina of wolves, to run for miles and miles when chasing down prey
means that when they've locked onto a target, they mean business.
Wolves have keen hunting instincts and will pick off any animal that breaks away from the herd,
bringing it down with powerful jaws,
aggressive bites and co-ordinated teamwork.
But it's when the wolves have made a kill that the pecking order in the pack lets you see who's boss.
The top dog gets the pick of the best bits
and makes sure everyone knows who's boss.
'But without the lure of food, these wolves are taking their time to get used to the crew and me.'
This is really interesting.
As they're approaching, they're kind of chatting to each other.
Just figuring out who's going to be the first to be allowed to come in and talk to Tess, not to me.
OK. Now they're starting to build up their confidence.
They're still playing around with each other, still definitely some nerves going on.
The fighting and nipping and scratching and biting, it all has a real function
of keeping the team together and everyone in their right positions.
It also gives you a really good look at those teeth.
The canines are huge.
'Wolves have a bite twice as strong as our German Shepherd police dog.
'Tess knows each wolf from their different personalities. As they come closer,
'they greet her by licking her face.
'Although they might seem very much like domestic dogs,
'these wolves are still wild animals and our movements must be slow and cautious.'
As they approach, they're very much being led by that canine supersense,
Let's see what comes in first.
Always the nose, always sussing things out
with that incredible sense of smell first.
2,000 times more powerful than ours.
'That phenomenal sense of smell is used to track prey from over a mile away in the wild.'
They're gradually starting to get more and more confident, checking out Nick, the soundman,
and Johnny, the cameraman,
getting closer and closer.
But as they approach, I mustn't let myself forget how deadly these animals are.
And the wolves are quick to remind me who's in charge.
Go on, look...
I think I might have moved a little bit too fast there,
and just got snapped at.
Just to show that there's nothing in my hands.
Wow. Just a nibble...but even so.
As individuals, wolves are awesome predators,
but it's when they come together as a pack that they are really deadly.
The way they bring themselves together, particularly before a hunt, is using a howl,
and we're going to try that now and see if we can get these guys to join in.
-Shall we give it a go?
-Give it a go.
'The howl can be heard by other wolves over six miles away
'and also acts as a warning signal to rival packs to stay away.'
And what a wonderful, eerie, chilling stunning sound!
CHORUS OF HOWLS
The wolf. The voice of the wilderness and the ultimate team hunter.
Definitely on the Deadly 60.
Wolves use their phenomenal sense of smell to sniff out their prey,
then run it down with extraordinary stamina,
before using raw aggression to go in for the kill.
Wolves have secured a place on the Deadly 60.
This is the most work my crew have done in ages!
'Join me next time as we look for more deadly animals up in the snowy north.'
That's pretty scary stuff!
Are we going to see it...?
Subtitles by Red Bee Media
Email [email protected]
Steve takes a close look at dogs and their distant relatives, wolves. He heads to the Arctic Circle where a pack of huskies show him a thing or two about stamina. Steve is then rescued by an avalanche dog whose incredible nose sniffs him out from deep beneath the snow. Finally he comes face-to-face with one of his favourite animals, the wolf.