Listen To The Haunting Howls That Once Permeated Europe

2:28 minutes

Front view of one Iberian Wolf
Credit: Juan Carlos Munoz/Shutterstock

Last year, Melissa Pons, a field recordist and sound designer, set out to capture a sound that at one time would have been familiar to almost any European: the howl of an Iberian wolf.

There was a time when the sounds of wolves filled the forests and mountains of Europe. But after centuries of persecution by humans, only some 12,000 wolves remain in all of Europe. Isolated pockets of wolves can be found in Italy, Spain, Greece, and Finland. A sixth of the entire remaining population lives in the mountains of Portugal.

Pons headed to the remote, mountainous region of Picão—a settlement on the small island Príncipe off the west coast of Africa—where there is a rehabilitation center for the Iberian wolf. There are some 350 packs of wolves spread out over about 45 acres of the reserve.

Pons first explored the region and observed the wolves. Then she set up her recording gear and gathered over 100 hours of tape. From those recordings, she composed an album where each track captures a distinct soundscape made by these wolves.

The album is available online and half the proceeds go toward supporting the rehabilitation center in Portugal.

The World According to Sound is a live audio show, online listening series, and miniature podcast that focuses on sound, not story. Producers Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett create intentional, communal listening experiences as a way to “reclaim autonomy in a visually dominated world that is increasingly fracturing our attention.”

This recording is part of their next listening series, an immersive listening party where audiences from all over the globe will be invited to experience a world of sound together, beginning in January 2022. You can get a ticket to the series here.

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Segment Guests

Chris Hoff

Chris Hoff is the co-producer of The World According To Sound podcast. He’s based in San Francisco, California.

Sam Harnett

Sam Harnett is the co-producer of The World According To Sound podcast. He’s based in San Francisco, California.

Segment Transcript

SOPHIE BUSHWICK: Some of the lure around cryptids comes from people mistaking something that’s pretty common for something that’s pretty spooky. And over the next few minutes, I wouldn’t blame you if you or your pets thought ghosts were coming out of your radio. Here is a special Halloween soundscape from producers Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett of the World According to Sound podcast.

CHRIS HOFF: These are Iberian wolves recorded in Portugal by Melissa Ponce. She’s released an entire album of the soundscapes created by these wolves.


SOPHIE BUSHWICK: That gave me goosebumps. These sounds are part of a communal listening series the World According to Sound is hosting this winter. For more information about their 80 minute binaural events, visit the WorldAccordingtoSound.org.

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Meet the Producers and Host

About John Dankosky

John Dankosky works with the radio team to create our weekly show, and is helping to build our State of Science Reporting Network. He’s also been a long-time guest host on Science Friday. He and his wife have three cats, thousands of bees, and a yoga studio in the sleepy Northwest hills of Connecticut. 

About Kyle Marian Viterbo

Kyle Marian Viterbo is a community manager at Science Friday. She loves sharing hilarious stories about human evolution, hidden museum collections, and the many ways Indiana Jones is a terrible archaeologist.

About Sophie Bushwick

Sophie Bushwick is senior news editor at New Scientist in New York, New York. Previously, she was a senior editor at Popular Science and technology editor at Scientific American.

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