The wolf has a bad reputation throughout the world. Perhaps part of this in modern times is due to the prevelance of Werewolf stories and films. There are a number of species of wolves found throughout the Republic, and their reputation is no better here than elsewhere – especially as they seen as a distinct threat to livestock. In just one year, it is claimed that wolves in the Naryn province alone were responsible for killing almost 16000 animals, (4000 horses, 4000 cows and 8000 sheep and goats) with a value of 70,400.000 soms – (about 1.75 million US dollars), whereas in the same period thieves were responsible for stealing just 342 – worth 1.4 millions soms (about 33,000 US dollars). A bounty is paid to hunters for killing wolves and there is a planned program for culling the animals. Even domestic dogs have fallen prey to eager hunters.
There is a large wolf dwelling in the western part of Kyrgyzstan, which grows to 40-50kg in weight, one and a half-meters in length and a height of eighty centimetres.
A smaller desert wolf is found in the plains.
Wolves prefer open spaces, copses, precipices, hills, and ravines. They live in packs which can be quite large, although individual pairs can be encountered. It is estimated that are about 4-5000 wolves in Kyrgyzstan – some have even been observed close to Bishkek.
They have strong family ties and couples form life-long pairings. A litter is usually born in April/May and can number 5-6 cubs that stay with the parents until they reach adulthood. They can make their lairs in a variety of places – caves, under tree roots, even taking over burrows of other animals. Every family has its own hunting area, with marked boundaries.
Unlike wolves of the Plains, which wander over a large geographical area, Mountain wolves are attached to a place, roaming over a comparatively small area – following wild and domestic animals.
In the wild, it feeds on a large quantity of birds, small animals, (marmot, hare, field-voles, mice, and hamsters).
The novel “The place of the Skull” by Chinghiz Aitmatov has as one of it’s intertwined storylines the fate of one family of wolves which migrates from the plains of Kazakhstan to the mountains around Lake Issyk Kul. One of the novel’s heros exhibits an unusual empathy towards the family and their struggle to survive.