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“wolves are wimps” – or – why “The Grey” is pure fiction

National Geographic caught up with wolf expert Daniel MacNulty to determine what, in the movie “The Grey,” is based in reality and what is not. As you can imagine, the answer is: not a lot.

The nominal star of The Grey, America’s top-grossing film, is Liam Neeson. The real stars are the hungry wolves that pursue him and his fellow plane-crash survivors through Alaska’s pristine wilderness. The CGI-enhanced wolves are big, smart, and scary.

But is their behavior based in reality? To parse wolf fact from fiction, Pop Omnivore caught up with Daniel MacNulty, a wildlife-ecology professor at Utah State University whose research on Arctic wolves is funded in part by the National Geographic Society.

First off, would wolves see men as prey and stalk them in the wild? I’d think that in a remote area like this one, wolves might fear or avoid humans.

In my 16 years of studying wolves in Yellowstone National Park, I have never been approached by a wolf or wolf pack. On the contrary, when I’ve inadvertently bumped into wolves they turn and run away—which is a problem when my objective is to observe them!

One of the characters in the movie says these wolves a) have a 300-mile hunting radius, b) will attack anything that comes near their den, and c) “are the only animal that will seek revenge.” Is any of that that true?

No. Nonsense, all of it.

Would a wolf attack a man standing next to a fire, with other men nearby, as happens in The Grey?

Not a chance.

At one point two men are running alongside a riverbank in the middle of the day. Two wolves race out of the trees and charge them. Possible?

Read the answer to this question and more on nationalgeographic.com: Would Real Wolves Act Like the Wolves of ‘The Grey’?

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