Wolves and humans have a lot more in common than you might think, at least when it comes to appeasing an anxious child.
On Tuesday, Yellowstone National Park shared video on social media which showed adult wolves from a well-known pack traveling back to their den with some unusual items.
Video from a trail camera shot earlier in spring showed the wolves carrying antlers, bones and sticks back to the den as an offering for their awaiting pups.
The reason for the peculiar wildlife behavior is actually more humanlike than you might imagine.
“Pups await food deliveries from successful hunts, but in the absence of food adults bring ‘toys,'” officials from the National Park said in the social media post.
Researchers theorize that the behavior has been reinforced by evolution and might save the adults from being “mobbed by sharp puppy teeth.”
Yellowstone wolf packs typically have one litter each year, comprised of about four or five pups. By late October, the pups are about two-thirds the size of an adult and begin traveling with the pack.
Pups that survive the winter help the pack hunt large prey like elk and bison and help raise the pack’s next generation of pups, bringing food to the den and, apparently, toys.
Wolves are incredibly social animals that follow a hierarchical social dynamic within their packs. They have complex relationships with each other and defend their territory from other packs.
Wolves were all but hunted to extinction in Yellowstone in the 1900s, but gray wolves from Canada and parts of Montana were re-introduced into the park in the 1990s.
Although somewhat controversial and an occasional thorn in the side of ranchers near the park’s boundaries, the wolves are a crucial part of the park’s ecosystem and play important roles in maintaining the delicate balance of predators and prey.
The successful reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone is widely regarded among researchers and conservationists as an environmental success.