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May 25, 2009

Isle Royale is located in the northwest portion of Lake Superior. It is ~50 miles long and ~8 miles wide.

Isle Royale is home to a population of wolves and moose. These wolves are the sole predator of the moose, and moose represent ~90% of the wolves’ diet.

The wolves, the moose, and their interactions have been studied continuously and intensively since 1958. This is the longest study of any predator-prey system in the world.

The following is an excerpt from my journal as I participated in the wolf-moose study from May 9-17, 2009.

Day 1:

I made it to Grand Portage, MN right around 6:30 am and boarded the Voyager II for the 2 hour trip to Isle Royale National Park. The boat ride was very rocky as the vessel moved to the rhythm of the swales. Occasional snow flurries would obscure our view as we approached the island. When we docked at Windigo, we were met by Leah Vucetich, who gave us our orientation for the team’s assignment. Team 1 consisted of 12 participants and was split into Team 1A and Team 1B with 6 team members each. I was assigned to Team 1A with Tim Pacey as the expedition team leader. After a few hours of repacking our supplies, we headed down the Greenstone Trail for a 7 mile hike with our 55 pound packs to Island Mine Campground, where we would spend our first night. We finally arrived at out night’s destination around 5:30 pm and quickly setup camp.

Day 2:

After a frigid night’s sleep, we wake up to start heating water for a warm beverage. There is frost on the ground and the water is partially frozen. Some hot cocoa was a nice warming refreshment. After breakfast and tearing down camp, we shun the trail and begin a cross-country trip toward the north shore of Siskiwit Bay. Along the way, the team spreads out as we scan the ground looking for moose bones while keeping track of our compass heading, and trying to keep the closest two team members in sight. Many times, one or two team members would fall behind and get slightly disorientated. So we would stop and call their names until they finally found us again. A few times, Tim would have to go searching for them. This slowed our progress several times throughout the day.

On one of earlier breaks, we spotted a pine martin slipping through the forest. It seemed as curious about us as we were of it. Pine martins are a rare sight on the island. Only in the past few years have they established themselves here and hopefully this is a good sign that their population is growing.

Shortly after a relaxing lunch, we found our first moose bones. After a thorough search of the area, we recovered a skull, leg bones, scapula, several vertebrae and ribs. We would pack up the skull and one of the leg bones called a metatarsal. When we find them, we typically would also bring back the skull, metatarsal, mandible and incisor teeth along with any other bone that showed any injury or disease.

Not long after our first find, we make a second and found a skull and metatarsal as well.

As the time was getting late, we decided to make a push for the shore to make camp. On our beeline to the shore, we encountered several cedar swamps. Going was slow while looking for footing and trying not to get out packs snagged in the branches. Finally we could see a body of water up ahead. To our dismay, we ran into a large beaver pond. We were getting low on drinking water, so we decided to filter some here. This is where I made a critical mistake! I took my pack off and laid it down on the wet boggy mat to the water filter out. I completely forgot about my camera strapped to the front of my pack. As I went to put my pack back on, I saw my wet camera. I took the batteries out and hope it will be able to dry out, but if you don’t see many pictures from the trip, now you know the reason why.

After meandering around the pond, we finally make it to the north shore of Siskiwit Bay, where we setup camp in the fading light and eat supper by headlamp. After the long day, we all head off for a night’s rest.

Day 3:

After a much warmer night and waking up to sunshine, we take an extended morning break to dry out our foot gear. Today will be just a day hike and we’ll leave camp setup for another night here.

We finally strike out around noon and find a number of piles of moose bones left by teams from previous years. We find two more sites of unrecorded moose bones. So far all we are finding are bull. Fortunately none still have their antler rack still attached to the skull. The antlers add a considerable amount of weight that would need to be packed around. On the way, we also find several antler sheds, which we stop to measure and record in our field notes.

Finally around 5:30 pm we make it to our lunch destination right on the shore of Lake Superior. We take a relaxing lunch and top off our water bottles. We then take the shoreline back to camp just before nightfall.

Day 4:

The morning started out bright, sunny, and calm. While eating breakfast, Tim turned the radio on to listen for a weather report. Gale force winds and thunderstorms were in the forecast for this afternoon. We needed to enjoy the sunshine while it lasted.

We broke camp and headed toward Hay Bay. After negotiating more swamps, we find a few moose leg bones but nothing else. Eventually, we encountered the Little Siskiwit River which we needed to find a way across. Down by the bay, the river was too wide to cross, so we head up the ridge to find a narrow spot to hop across. As we headed upstream, the river took on a new character turning a churning whitewater and cascading falls. The falls are very unique and uncommon here on Isle Royale. We climb and climb to hopefully find a safe crossing. Finally we come to a spot which is narrow enough with a log to cross on.

After making it across the river, we hiked the ridge until it was time to make camp. We headed downhill to the north shore of Hay Bay and setup camp just east of Finn Point. In total, we found two more sets of moose bones to pack along.

Day 5:

We woke to some light rain showers in the morning. Tim had over-stretched his calf muscle yesterday and was feeling a bit rough. We needed to make our way to Spruce Point to investigate a kill site seen during the winter study. It was decided that we would split up the team for the day, sending the faster hikers over to Spruce Point to retrieve the moose bones while the others would stay near shore and scout around for any other moose bones. Tim had to stay in camp and rest his leg. I was on the team that went over to Spruce Point. As we hiked along the shore we could see fresh wolf tracks in the sand. After reaching Spruce Point we spend about 1-1/2 hours of searching until we finally find the kill site in a thicket of spruce trees. It was another mature bull and fortunately it had no antlers. Since we had on day hiked over there and I had no backpack, I strapped the skull unto my hiking stick and carried it back hobo style.

Meanwhile, the other half of the team had found another kill site, so we packed that one back as well. As we neared our base camp, yet another kill site was discovered bring the days total to 3 moose. So far, no sightings of any live moose.

Day 6:

Today we decided to breakdown camp and begin out journey back. The plan was to leave shore and head inland to climb back on top of the ridge and follow it westward to Island Mine Trail. Unfortunately, things did not good quite so smooth. Reaching the top of the ridge was no problem and we followed that back to Little Siskiwit River. Crossing the river was a little less exciting than the previous day, as we were now at the top of the ridge with the rapids below us, so we simply waded across the stream. As we continued going west along the ridge, we quickly came upon one kill site after another, plus several antlers which need to be measures. In all, we found four new kill sites and daylight was beginning to fade. We were still on the ridge and had no water source for a camping spot. Finally, we were lucky to stumble upon a vernal pond that wasn’t on the map and setup camp just as the sun was setting. Although the past few days had been warm, a definite chill was now in the air.

Day 7:

This morning we had a curious visitor to our camp. A fox wandered in and seemed fascinated at these strangers camping in the middle of the forest. The fox explore where we made last night’s supper and didn’t appear to be very nervous of our presence.

We strike out along the ridge hoping to find the trail. After about one mile, we come across one more kill site. This time it was a moose calf. It was fairly fresh as there was still plenty of hair on the ground. After a couple more hours of hiking we finally walk into the old Island Mine and eventually the trail. Once we hit the trail, it was just another ½ mile to the Island Mine Campground.

Day 8:

We woke to snow once again and breakdown camp for the final 7 miles back to Windigo where the research station is located. After about 2-1/2 hours of trail hiking we arrive at our destination in time to meet Team II fresh off the boat and ready to begin their week in the wilderness.

After a refreshing shower and delightful spaghetti dinner, we then go through all of our findings with Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich.

Note: The camera never had a chance to dry out during the trip, but after returning home the optics finally defogged and seems to running fine. Next year I will bring along a waterproof camera.

Hope you enjoyed reading my little adventure on Isle Royale.

~Happy Howls~

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Posted: May 25, 2009 8:49am
Apr 18, 2009

Warmer spring weather has finally engulfed the northwoods of Minnesota. Only patches of snow can be found now in the shaded areas of the surrounding forests. Although snow is in the forecast over the next few days, its time will be limited as spring marches forward.

Earlier this week, I attended the 2009 Midwest Wolf Stewards Conference in Iron Mountain, Michigan. There were close to 90 people attending to learn about the latest news on wolves in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ontario, Canada. Overall the wolf population is either stable of continuing to grow with relatively few human-wolf conflicts.

The 2009 estimate of wolves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is about 584 consisting of about 119 packs. At this time there are no known established packs in the Lower Peninsula, but it thought that it just a matter of time before make the move across the straits.

Wisconsin had yet to tally their 2009 count, but believes it will be between 600-630 wolves with 150-160 packs.

Minnesota is still holding around close to 3000 wolves and about 650 packs.

Ontario remains the strong-hold with an estimate of over 8000 wolves and is the main source of wolves dispersing into the Great Lakes region of the United States.

The key-note speaker was Rolf Peterson who gave a very entertaining talk on the status of wolves and moose on Isle Royale, Michigan. Included was a video of a underwater view of a moose browsing and a wolf with a sweet-tooth eating apples in one of the park’s campgrounds.

Personal notes and observation at the IWC

With the warmer weather comes a decrease in of aggressive behavior among the wolves. Maya’s stalking and intense dominance displays toward Aidan have mellowed considerably. He have had a wild wolf hanging around the exhibit enclosure adding some tension and curiosity within the pack. The pups Aidan and Denali are almost 1-year old now. Denali now stands a little larger than Grizzer, but still has much filling out to do, so he will be a huge wolf when he matures.

Along with my usual mass of weekly photographs, I am now posting videos of the Ambassador pack on my Flickr account. Just look in the blogroll for Wolf Man’s Photo and click the link to view the 10,000+ photos posted so far.

Disclaimer note: I am a member and volunteer at the International Wolf Center (IWC), helping out at the ambassador’s desk and wolf care. These are my personal experiences and are not sanctioned by the IWC or represent an official log of the IWC’s wolves. Please visit www.wolf.org

This week’s photo shows Denali walking amongst the boulders.

Happy Howls

www.wolfinformationcenter.info

“Helping to Raise Wolf Awareness”

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Posted: Apr 18, 2009 5:31am
Apr 8, 2009

Mild temperatures have returned and seem to be settling into the northwoods of Minnesota. Although we still have about a half of foot of snow on the ground, the warm weather will diminish that in time.

Next week on April 15 and 16, the Timber Wolf Alliance is hosting the Midwest Wolf Stewards Conference 2009 in Iron Mountain, Michigan. Rolf Peterson of Michigan Technological University will be giving the keynote address. His talk will be very timely with all the news about his study of wolves on Isle Royale with their genetic defects from decades of inbreeding. I’ll be going to the conference and will report back with all the latest news on the status of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes region.

Natural History Of Wolves

Many times while working at the Ambassador’s Desk at the International Wolf Center, I am asked if the wolves are what’s called a “Timber Wolf”. The answer is both yes and no. All of our wolves are a subspecies of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus), namely the Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos), the Great Plains wolf (Canis lupus nubilus), and the Northwestern wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis). I explain that a wolf you would find in the wild in Northern Minnesota is actually the Great Plains wolf. There is a subspecies that was found in the New England states and is still in the wild in Eastern Canada called the Eastern Timber Wolf (Canis lupus lycaon). When Europeans first came to American, the Eastern Timber Wolf was the first wolf they encountered and classified. AS the Europeans made their westward move, the name “Timber Wolf” came to denote a generic name for the wolves in North America, much like the name brand Klennex is used like a generic name for any brand facial tissue. Another factor to consider is that most settlers made no distinction between the wolf and the coyote. Coyotes will inhabit more open and brushy habitats and as a result was commonly called “brush Wolf” while the wolves which lived in the more densely forested habitats were called “timber wolf”.

Historically, the Eastern Timber wolf’s range did reach into the Western Great Lake region. They were actually the widest ranging subspecies in North America at the time. Up until the mid 1980’s, the wolf in Minnesota was still classified as the Eastern Timber wolf, but in reality that particular subspecies had been eliminated in the United States and the wolf from the Great Plains had filled the vacant niche left behind. So if you are reading any old research material concerning the wolves in the Great Lakes region, you will find them referred to as “Timber Wolves”.

So yes, you may refer to these wolves at the International Wolf Center as “Timber wolves”, as used in the common name for any North American wolf, but they are not of the subspecies properly called the Eastern Timber wolf. And no, I don’t believe a certain basketball team in Minnesota will be changing their name anytime soon to the Great Plains Wolves.

Personal notes and observation at the IWC

With the mild weather comes as decrease of hormonal aggression that Maya was exhibiting toward Aidan. Because of the earlier stalking and dominance displays, Aidan is still wary of Maya, but they can also be seen sleeping next to each other, showing a social bond. Denali is going to be one large wolf, he towers over Maya and only seems dwarfed by big, old Grizzer. Grizzer continues to seek out both pups for social play and dare I say…mischief. Shadow has retained his dominate status with very little effort this winter and we appear to be going into Spring with a very socially cohesive pack.

Disclaimer note: I am a member and volunteer at the International Wolf Center (IWC), helping out at the ambassador’s desk and wolf care. These are my personal experiences and are not sanctioned by the IWC or represent an official log of the IWC’s wolves. Please visit www.wolf.org

This week’s photo shows Denali at almost 1-year of age. He still has much more red tint to his coat than his brother Aidan.

Happy Howls

“Helping to Raise Wolf Awareness”

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Posted: Apr 8, 2009 1:13pm
Feb 5, 2009

It has been a fairly mild week here in the northwoods, except for Wednesday mornings -33F wakeup call. The mild temperatures are forecast to stick around for a while, which is good for Friday’s (February 6, 2009) launch of the Ely Winter Carnival weeklong events. I’ll be helping out at the International Wolf Center, so if you are planning on coming up for the events, stop on in at the IWC and say hello and watch our Ambassador Wolves.

Natural History Of Wolves

The wolf, being a carnivore, must hunt to survive. The hunting behavior of wolves can be broken down to several stages. These stages are generalized and may overlap with each other during the actual process of the hunt.

Locating Prey: First the wolf must find where the prey is located. They use their keen senses and their ability to travel over long distance usually over difficult terrain. Occasionally, it is just pure luck that a wolf my stumble upon its prey. Wolves are opportunist and won’t normally turn a chance for a meal.

Stalking Prey: Once the prey has been located, the wolf tries to get as close as possible to its intended prey without being detected.

The Encounter: This is the point where predator and prey confront each other. What transpires next is usually up to the prey. The prey can stand its ground, approach closer to the wolf, or flee. Prey that approach the predator or simply hold still, have a better chance on living to see another day. If the prey decides to flee, the next phase of the hunt is played out.

The Rush: Prey movement stimulates innate behavior in the wolf to pursue the prey. The wolf is looking for signs of weakness and vulnerability of its intended prey. It the prey is moving within a herd of animals, the wolves are scanning individuals within the herd and once one is singled out, the pack targets in.

The Chase: Once the wolves has single out an individual, the chase begins. The wolves constantly test the prey, continually looking for weaknesses.

The Attack: This part of the hunt could be over very quickly or drawn out for several hours, depending on the fight within the intended prey. Even if the hunt gets to this stage, it is still not a sure thing the wolves will be successful in making a kill.


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Personal notes and observation at the IWC

The midwinter aggression and behavioral displays continue within the Ambassador Pack. Grizzer’s ear wound from last week has healed nicely and he is showing less tolerance of being the pups chew toy. The pups Aidan and Denali continue to grow and it appears to me that they are already as large as Malik. Being the only female in the pack, Maya continues to use both of the male pups as a means to release some pent up aggression, especially toward Aidan. Maya can be seen stalking around, eyeing the pups from a hundred feet away. If the pups’ playing gets to rowdy for her, she’ll sprint up to them and aggressively dominate them. Most of the time, the pups ready submit and this helps keep the tension down. Shadow for the most part seems immune to all this and lets this natural behavior play itself out.

Disclaimer note: I am a member and volunteer at the International Wolf Center (IWC), helping out at the ambassador’s desk and wolf care. These are my personal experiences and are not sanctioned by the IWC or represent an official log of the IWC’s wolves. Please visit www.wolf.org

Wolves Around The Ely Area

Here are some of the recent locations of some radio collared wolves. Most of the time, no visual contact is made during the study, but when they are spotted, additional information is provided such as the wolf’s activity (r= resting, s=sleeping, t= traveling ,f=feeding), if there is another radio-collared wolf present , total number of wolves seen together with the radio-collared wolf, and a speculation if more wolves could be present.

Wolf #877 was tracked on January 26, 2009 near South Farm Lake, then seen sleeping on January 27, 2009 near Omaday Lake with two other wolves, then resting near Bruin Lake on January 28, 2009 with four other wolves, and on February 2, 2009 was seen feeding near South Farm Lake again with three other wolves.

Wolf #911 was tracked on January 26, 2009 by Birch Lake Dam, then seen sleeping on January 27 and January 28, 2009 by Crocket Lake, and then seen traveling near Crocket Lake again on February 2, 2009 with six other wolves.

Wolf #919 was tracked on January 26, 2009 near Purvis Lake, then seen traveling near Johnson Lake on January 27, 2009 with nine other wolves and tracked again near Purvis Lake on February 2, 2009.

Wolf #945 was seen traveling near Gabbro Lake on January 26, 2009 with four other wolves and then resting near Gabbro Lake on January 27, 2009, with seven other wolves, then traveling again near Ojibway Lake on January 28, 2009 with seven other wolves, and on February 2, 2009 was seen sleeping with seven other wolves near Greenstone Lake.

Wolf #951 was tracked on January 26, 2009 near Lake One, then seen traveling near Muzzle Lake on January 28, 2009 and then sleeping near Parent Lake on February 2, 2009.

Wolf #955 was seen resting on January 26, 2009 near Triangle Lake, and then tracked on January 28, 2009 by Ojibway Lake.

Wolf #963 was seen resting near McDougal Lake with another wolf on January 26, 2009.

Wolves in the News

Ashley Judd Slams Sarah Palin For Promoting Aerial Killing Of Wolves

Actress Ashley Judd stars in a new campaign targeted at Sarah Palin's alleged "anti-conservation agenda" and her promotion of the killing of wolves and bears in Alaska.

Defenders Action Fund launched the campaign today with a new Website, EyeonPalin.org. In a video, Judd condemns Palin for promoting the aerial killing of wolves and even accuses her of suggesting $150 bounties for the severed forelegs of killed wolves.

"Now back in Alaska, Palin is again casting aside science and championing the slaughter of wildlife," Judds recites somberly.

"Palin even proposed a $150 bounty for the severed foreleg of each killed wolf. And now she is encouraging even more aerial killing. it is time to stop Sarah Palin and stop this senseless savagery."


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This is one of my favorite quotes. It is by J.W. Curran as published in The Canadian Wildlife Almanac, 1981:

“There are, of course, several things in Ontario that are more dangerous than wolves. For instance, the step-ladder”

This week’s photo show the pack’s dominant female Maya in stalking mode.

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Happy Howls

www.wolfinformationcenter.net

“Helping to Raise Wolf Awareness”

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Posted: Feb 5, 2009 11:28am
Jan 26, 2009

It’s been fairly mild here in the northwoods. Last week we had temperatures in the mid 20°F on the positive side of zero for a nice change. Of course, this is only a temporary reprieve and this morning we woke-up to 20 below with wind chills in the 40 below range.

Natural History Of Wolves

Social play among wolves within a pack is very common way for wolves to interact with each other without resulting in any serious injuries. Through a series of body movements and eye contact, they seem to communicate with each other that all is for fun and not a real challenge to the ranking hierarchy. As Marc Bekoff puts in his book “Animal Passions and Beastly Virtues”…………”Play begins with a bow, and then something happens”. What he is talking about is the “Play Bow”, a behavior most dog owners are familiar with. This ritual behavior is a way to convey to the others that anything that happens after this is all for play and if things begin to get out of hand, it can serve as a reminder that this was meant as play.

Social play is used to help relieve stress levels and help make to pack more cohesive. It’s is also a great way for pups to learn social behaviors in a non-threatening manner which will be used later as they mature and begin to assert themselves within the pack hierarchy.

Personal notes and observation at the IWC

Friday evenings feeding at the International Wolf Center showed the Ambassador Wolves in rare form as they put on a great display of the pack dynamics. On the menu was a road-killed deer and as usual, the pups Aidan and Denali were the first at the carcass. The drama began to unfold as Denali began to show intense resource guarding of the food. The dominate female Maya, being no stranger to food possessing behavior, was able to work her way in to get in for a share of the food. It was surprising to watch Denali was also trying to intimidate the top ranking male, Shadow. What was even more surprising was Shadow tolerating this behavior from the pup. Throughout all of this, Aidan continued eating or romping to go play with the adults and return back to the carcass with little commotion from Denali.

In the meantime, Malik has decided to keep Grizzer away from the food with much chasing and posturing. As a result of this, neither one of them ate during the program and probably ate afterwards as the intense behavior subsided.


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Disclaimer note: I am a member and volunteer at the International Wolf Center (IWC), helping out at the ambassador’s desk and wolf care. These are my personal experiences and are not sanctioned by the IWC or represent an official log of the IWC’s wolves. Please visit www.wolf.org

Wolves Around The Ely Area

Here are some of the recent locations of some radio collared wolves. Most of the time, no visual contact is made during the study, but when they are spotted, additional information is provided such as the wolf’s activity (r= resting, s=sleeping, t= traveling ,f=feeding), if there is another radio-collared wolf present , total number of wolves seen together with the radio-collared wolf, and a speculation if more wolves could be present.

No new telemetry data to report this week.

Wolves in the News

The delisting process for wolves in the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes that was put into effect during President Bush’s final days in office was quickly brought to a halt when President Obama took office last week. "This gives the Obama administration the opportunity to take into consideration the considerable threats that still face wolves in the Northern Rockies," said Jenny Harbine, a staff attorney with Earthjustice. She was part of the legal team representing a dozen environmental groups that blocked FWS' plans to delist the wolf last year.

Wolf Poetry Corner

This week’s quote:

Inescapably, the realization was being borne in upon my preconditioned mind that the centuries-old and universally accepted human concept of wolf character was a palpable lie. On three separate occasions in less than a week I had been completely at the mercy of these 'savage killers'; but far from attempting to tear me limb from limb, they had displayed a restraint verging on contempt, even when I invaded their home and appeared to be posing a direct threat to the young pups.

Farley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf

And now something from The Wolf Poet

Silence of the Wolves

What happened to that wild music,
where do their vices still sound?
The forests are so quiet,
and the Silence is deafening.
Oh how I miss their mournful songs.
For once, long ago, the land rang with it,
was filled with it, both day and night.
But then it was Silenced by us,
with the bang of gunshots, long ago.
And now I cannot even hear the echoes
of the ghost howls anymore.
There is only Silence, a deep, sad Silence,
remaining in the places where they once gave voice.
Oh, have you ever heard their long-drawn cries?
The wild, haunting music that they made,
ringing and echoing through the vast forests?
Have you ever seen the defiant gleam
in their piercing yellow eyes as they sang?
Ah but no, for we Silenced them long ago.
And though the mountains still loom high,
and the forests sill stand tall,
that wild, beautiful music is gone,
and there is only Silence...
The Silence of the Wolves...



- Copyright by Sloane J. 2007

This week’s photo shows Aidan grabbing the tail of a somewhat tolerant Grizzer.

Happy Howls

www.wolfinformationcenter.net

“Helping to Raise Wolf Awareness”

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Posted: Jan 26, 2009 1:26pm
Jan 20, 2009

As everywhere in the Midwest it seems, the northwoods of Minnesota went through a cold snap this past week with temperatures in the surrounding area dipping as low as -40°F, not including wind chill. This week promises to be much milder with the possibility of rising above the freezing mark.

Natural History of the Wolf

The Wolf found in northern regions is well adapted to cold and snowy conditions.

The wolf’s winter coat consists of thick, wooly undercoat for insulation and long guard hairs which repel moisture. These thick winter coats are grown in the fall and then shed in the spring.

The foot of the wolf is disproportionately larger than its domesticated cousins the dog. These large feet have webbed toes which spread out when walking on snow giving them superior floatation on the snow, much the same as human use snowshoes to walk in the snow. This is a distinct advantage over its hoofed prey which offers little floatation in the snow, making travel difficult.

International Wolf Center

This week’s frigid temperatures did little to slow down pups Aidan and Denali. It seems to be just one continuous pup wrestling match with much jaw sparing, foreleg jabs, and just plain rough-housing. Grizzer still seems to be a focal point to the pups and serves as the resident chew toy for them. Grizzer appears to enjoy the presence of the pups and has shifted his focus primarily toward the pups. This is good for Shadow, as last year Grizzer was constantly testing him for any possible weakness in order to gain rank within the pack. This season, the pack hierarchy remains strong and harmonious, with the possible exception of Malik now testing Grizzer for any weakness while he is playing with the pups.

This past Saturday I was watching Grizzer doing his impression of an otter slide. He starts out lying down at the top of the bank of the pond and pushes with his hind feet to go sliding down the slope head first till he gets to the bottom then lays there sprawled out as the pups come running to investigate. He did this behavior twice within an hour seemingly all for entertainment for himself and the pups.


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Disclaimer note: I am a member and volunteer at the International Wolf Center (IWC), helping out at the ambassador’s desk and wolf care. These are my personal experiences and are not sanctioned by the IWC or represent an official log of the IWC’s wolves. Please visit www.wolf.org

Wolves Around The Ely Area

Here are some of the recent locations of some radio collared wolves. Most of the time, no visual contact is made during the study, but when they are spotted, additional information is provided such as the wolf’s activity (r= resting, s=sleeping, t= traveling ,f=feeding), if there is another radio-collared wolf present , total number of wolves seen together with the radio-collared wolf, and a speculation if more wolves could be present.

All for January 9, 2009

Wolf #911 was seen traveling about 0.5 miles south of South Farm Lake with six other wolves.

Wolf #919 was seen feeding with three other wolves about 1 mile southwest of White Iron Lake.

Wolf #945 was seen resting about 1 mile north of Gabbro Lake.

Wolf #951 was tracked near Parent Lake.

Wolf #955 was tracked about 0.7 miles southwest of Discovery Lake.

Wolf #7003 was seen resting with five other wolves about 0.5 miles south of Snowbank Lake.

Wolf #7049 was seen resting with two other wolves about 0.4 miles south of Garden Lake.

Wolf #7053 was seen resting with three other wolves about 1 mile north of Gabbro Lake.

Wolf #7057 was seen resting with one other wolf about 0.4 miles southwest of Sourdough Lake.

Wolves in the News

The 2009 Winter Study has begun on Isle Royale National Park this past week. This marks the 51st consecutive year of the longest predator-prey study in the world focusing on the moose-wolf interactions on Isle Royale National Park. This study continues to still provide us with insights into the natural world of not only predator-prey relationships, but also on how human activity is changing the planet.

In 1958, Dr. Durward Allen began on what was supposed to be a 10-year study of the predator-prey relationship on Isle Royale, an island in Lake Superior. This closed community on the island has proved to be an ideal laboratory in helping to simplify the variables to a complex and often fluctuating relationship between predator and prey.

Along with Dr. Allen, several research scientists such L. David Mech, Rolf O. Peterson, Doug Smith, and John Vucetich have been involved with the study as well as numerous students and EarthWatch volunteers.

Please visit www.isleroyalewolf.org to find out more about this study and volunteering opportunities.

To watch a couple hour video on the wolf-moose study on Isle Royale, click here.

Wolf Poetry Corner

The Cry
by Karen Evans

He stands alone at the top of the hill
And sings his mournful cry,
His mate and cubs are missing
He's not certain why.

He had been out hunting
Was gone for only a day,
And hurried back with empty jaws
So scarce now was their prey.

He wasn't gone long
Eager to get home,
But the den was cold and empty
And he sensed something was wrong.

The smell of man was everywhere
With footprints in the dirt,
And blood shed from his family
He knew they had been hurt.

He sat and waited day by day
With hopes they would return,
There wasn't much he could do
Except quietly sit and yearn.

Why would man come all this way
To hunt and shoot them down,
To interrupt their quiet lives
When no harm had been done?

Their territory plainly marked
And not once did they stray,
For they would rather starve to death
Than to get in man's way.

The smell of chickens, cows and sheep
Were so tempting at times,
But instincts warned not to hunt them
Or they would lose their lives.

And so they lived a quiet life
Existing on small game,
Careful it was only wildlife
And nothing man had tamed.

So he could find no reason
For the blood shed on that day,
So peacefully they lived here
So far out of man's way.

Maybe they'd be coming back
His cubbies and his mate,
Wolves are mated once for life
So he would sit and wait.

That was many moons ago
And they have not come back,
But he will not stop hoping
For the reunion of his pack.

He now knows men are murderers
But still does not know why,
And every night he climbs his hill
And sings his mournful cry.

And now something from the Wolf Poet


CodeConverted@MY360MI

This week’s photo shows Shadow, Grizzer, and Malik in their full winter coats. Well adapted to frigid winters.

Quote of the Week: “We listened for a voice crying in the wilderness. And we heard the jubilation of wolves!” by Durward L. Allen

Happy Howls

www.wolfinformationcenter.net

“Helping to Raise Wolf Awareness”

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Jan 12, 2009

The deep freeze in the northwoods of Minnesota continues with typical night-time temperatures around 25 below zero and it is expected to cool down even more the week dropping down to near 40 below with 55 below wind chills.

Alpha status

"Alpha" connotes top ranking in some kind of hierarchy, so an alpha wolf is by definition the top-ranking wolf. Because among wolves in captivity the hierarchies are gender based,there are an alpha male and an alpha female (Schenkel 1947).

The way in which alpha status has been viewed historically can be seen in studies in which an attempt is made to distinguish future alphas in litters of captive wolf pups. For example, it was hypothesized that "the emotional reactivity of the dominant cub, the potential alpha animal (emphasis mine) of the pack, might be measurably different from the subordinate individuals," and that "it might then be possible to pick out the

temperament characteristics or emotional reactivity of potential alpha or leader wolves

(emphasis mine), and of subordinates" (Fox 971b, p.299). Furthermore, "Under normal field conditions, it seems improbable that timid,low ranking wolves would breed" (Fox 1971a, p.307). This view implies that rank is innate or formed early, and that some wolves are destined to rule the pack, while others are not.

Contrary to this view, I propose that all young wolves are potential breeders and that when they do breed they automatically become alphas (Mech 1970). Even in captive packs, individuals gain or lose alpha status (Zimen 1976), so individual wolves do not have an inherent permanent social status, even though captive pups show physiological and behavioral differences related to current social rank (Fox 1971b; Fox and Andrews 1973). Secondly, wolves in captivity breed readily, and I know of no mature captive

individuals that failed to breed when paired apart from a group, as would be the case if

there were inherently low-ranking, non-breeders.

Third, in the wild, most wolves disperse from their natal packs and attempt to pair with other dispersed wolves, produce pups, and start their own packs (Rothman and Mech 1979; Fritts and Mech 1981; Messier 1985; Mech 1987; Gese and Mech 1991; Mech etal. 1998). I know of no permanent dispersers that failed to breed if they lived long enough.

Wolves do show considerable variation in dispersal age, distance, direction, and other

dispersal behavior (see references above), and conceivably these are related to the intra-litter variation discussed above (Fox 1971b; Fox and Andrews 1973). However, unless a maturing pack member inherits a position that allows it to breed with a stepparent in its own pack (Fritts and Mech 1981; Mech and Hertel 1983), sooner or later it will disperse and attempt to breed elsewhere.

Labeling a high-ranking wolf alpha emphasizes its rank in a dominance hierarchy. However, in natural wolf packs, the alpha male or female are merely the breeding animals, the parents of the pack, and dominance contests with other wolves are rare, if they exist at all. During my 13 summers observing the Ellesmere Island pack, I saw none.

Thus, calling a wolf an alpha is usually no more appropriate than referring to a human parent or a doe deer as an alpha. Any parent is dominant to its young offspring, so "alpha" adds no information. Why not refer to an alpha female as the female parent, the breeding female, the matriarch, or simply the mother? Such a designation emphasizes not the animal's dominant status, which is trivial information, but its role as pack progenitor, which is critical information.

The one use we may still want to reserve for "alpha" is in the relatively few large wolf

packs comprised of multiple litters. Although the genetic relationships of the mothers in

such packs remain unknown, probably the mothers include the original matriarch and one or more daughters, and the fathers are probably the patriarch and unrelated adoptees (Mech et al. 1998). In such cases the older breeders are probably dominant to the younger breeders and perhaps can more appropriately be called the alphas. Evidence for such a contention would be an older breeder consistently dominating food disposition or the travels of the pack.

The point here is not so much the terminology but what the terminology falsely implies: a rigid, force-based dominance hierarchy.

The degree to which these arguments apply to other species no doubt varies considerably and is beyond the scope of this article. However, it is notable that similar arguments might be made for African hunting dogs (Lycaon pictus), which ecologically are similar to wolves (Mech 1975). Whereas some workers observed no rank-order behavior in this species (Kuhme 1965; Estes and Goddard 1967), others liberally write of "alpha" animals (Creel and Creel 1996).

Excerpt from “Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor

in Wolf Packs” by L. David Mech


CodeConverted@MY360MI

The wolves are the International Wolf Center are weathering the arctic weather extremely well, including the two pups Aidan and Denali. The seasonal aggression continues but seemed somewhat more subdued these past couple of weeks. Aidan is learning from the pack’s dominate male Shadow on how to assert himself. Maya, who had been placing most of her aggressive behavior toward Aidan now seems to want no part of the activity. Even Malik and Grizzer can been seen getting along for the most part. Grizzer has yet another new scar near his eye, but it is unclear who the culprit was. It could have been either Malik taking advantage of Grizzer’s playful behavior with the pups, or the pups themselves still using Grizzer as a chew toy.

Disclaimer note: I am a member and volunteer at the International Wolf Center (IWC), helping out at the ambassador’s desk and wolf care. These are my personal experiences and are not sanctioned by the IWC or represent an official log of the IWC’s wolves. Please visit www.wolf.org


CodeConverted@MY360MI

Here are some of the recent locations of some radio collared wolves. Most of the time, no visual contact is made during the study, but when they are spotted, additional information is provided such as the wolf’s activity (r= resting, s=sleeping, t= traveling ,f=feeding), if there is another radio-collared wolf present , total number of wolves seen together with the radio-collared wolf, and a speculation if more wolves could be present.

Wolf #877 was seen resting near Bruin Lake with 4 other wolves on December 22, 2008. Then traveling northwest of Omaday Lake with 2 other wolves on December 30, 2008 and on January 5, 2009 was spotted resting near Bruin Lake again with 4 other wolves.

Wolf #911 was tracked on December 22 and December 30, 2008 northeast of Birch Lake Dam and on January 5, 2009 near South Farm Lake. No visual contact.

Wolf #919 was seen traveling about 2 miles north of One Pine Lake with 6 other wolves on December 22, 2008 and on December 30, 2008 was seen feeding with 5 other wolves about 1 mile north of Mitchell Lake.

Wolf #945 was seen about ½ mile east of Garden Lake with 5 other wolves on December 30, 2008 and January 5, 2009.

Wolf #955 was tracked on December 22, 2008 near Jasper Lake, seen resting with 1 other wolf on December 30, 2008 near Ojibway Lake and tracked again near Ojibway Lake on January 5, 2009.

Wolf #7003 was seen resting with 4 other wolves near Tofte Lake on December 22, 2008 and traveling neat Lake One with 2 other wolves on December 30, 2008. Then on January 5, 2009, was tracked near Parent Lake.

Wolf #7011 was seen traveling near Stub Lake on December 30, 2008.

Wolf #7049 was seen resting with 4 other wolves near Ely on December 22, 2008 and sleeping in the same area with another wolf on December 30, 2008.Then tracked on January 5, 2009 near White Iron Lake.

Wolf #7053 was seen feeding with wolf #945 and 4 other wolves on December 30, 2008 near Garden Lake and tracked near Conchu Lake on January 5, 2009.

Wolf #7057 was seen sleeping near Sourdough Lake on December 22, 2008, resting near Glacier Pond on December 30, 2008, and then tracked near Sourdough Lake on January 5, 2009.

Wolves in the News

Steve Cripe posted an interesting article to the Yahoo Group from the Albuquerque Journal on the blight on the Mexican Gray Wolf in the American Southwest.

Wolf Program Faces Challenge
By Rene Romo, Journal Southern Bureau LAS CRUCES

It was another challenging year for the restoration of endangered
Mexican gray wolves. Whatever the outcome of ongoing investigations,
2008 will end up being one of the worst in the nearly 11-year history
of the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program in terms of
suspicious killings. Seven wolf deaths in 2008 are under
investigation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and at least four of
the wolves are known to have been shot to death, according to the
federal agency. Two of the wolves that were shot, and a third whose
death is still being investigated, were members of wolf pairs that
could have bred in the wild — a key intention of the endangered
species restoration efforts.

The Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area straddles the mountainous border
between southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico. Between 1998 and
2007, when wolves were first released into the area, a total of 24
wolves have been shot illegally. The worst year so far for wolf
poaching cases was 2003, when seven wolves were shot. Four wolves
were shot in 1998 and another four were shot in 2001. Only one
poaching case has been successfully prosecuted. Another case was
ruled a self-defense.

"It is alarming," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological
Diversity in Pinos Altos. "Clearly, this is a high number this year,
and it is very disturbing. ... We find each one of these deaths
heartbreaking. It is one of the factors that has so far kept the
numbers (of wolves) suppressed, the other big factor being federal
predator control."

Environmentalists say a federal policy of removing from the wild any
wolves that have killed livestock three times in a one-year period
has undermined the growth of the wild wolf population.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's annual census of Mexican gray wolves
in the wild is to be released in February. At the end of 2007 there
were 52 Mexican gray wolves in the wild — a disappointing number for
wolf advocates, who noted that a 1996 environmental impact statement
projected there would be about 100 wolves roaming Southwest forests
by the end of 2006.

Meanwhile, critics of the program — including ranchers who have lost
livestock to the wolves — say there are more wolves in the wild than
the official census. Illegally killing a Mexican wolf, a violation of
the federal Endangered Species Act, is punishable by criminal
penalties of up to $50,000 and a year in jail, or a civil penalty of
up to $25,000. John Oakleaf, the Mexican gray wolf field projects
coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the long-term
impact of the wolf killings will not be known until biologists
determine whether surviving members of pairs mate with other wolves.
But, despite the number of suspicious deaths, Oakleaf said the
overall survival rate of radio-collared wolves was higher than normal
in 2008.

"Every time a wolf goes down it hurts," Oakleaf said, "but I try to
focus on the overall population.." Oakleaf said humans will continue
to kill wolves when their paths cross, but he said poaching will not
derail the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program. "Certainly those
types of actions aren't going to win," Oakleaf said. "While they are
setbacks, obviously we can be aggressive in terms of releases and
translocations to replace those animals."

Altogether in 2008, 13 wolves died in the recovery area, including
two wolves that were accidentally struck by cars and four cases in
which the cause of death could not be determined. A fourteenth wolf,
the Elk Mountain pack alpha male whose mate was found shot to death
in late April, has not been seen or detected by radio collar since
July. Recovery program biologists stopped mentioning the alpha male
in monthly reports over the summer, but Oakleaf said he has not
reached any conclusions about the wolf's fate. The Fish and Wildlife
Service has offered a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading
to the arrest and conviction of anyone who has illegally shot a wolf.

Wolf Poetry Corner

And now a little something from the Wolf Poet called “I am the Alpha Wolf, I am the Omega Wolf”


CodeConverted@MY360MI

This week’s photo shows Grizzer stretching and getting comfortable with Malik while resting in the pond.

Happy Howls

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Dec 28, 2008

Winter has been making its presence known here in the northwoods with not only its 30 below zero temperatures and snowfalls, but in the heightened aggression amongst the wolves. Winter is a time for a wolf family unit to travel and hunt in the popular conception of the wolf pack. The pups are large enough now to keep with the parents and older siblings as they travel about within their territory. The pups must also find their own social ranking within the pack as they mature. The hormonal changes within the adult wolves has changed from a nurturing phase to a more aggressive phase, with much more testing amongst the wolves for weaknesses and opportunities for advancing up in the social ranking. This testing is normally regarded as gender based, with the males competing with the males and the females competing with the females within the pack.

The captive wolves at the International Wolf Center are also undergoing this seasonal change, but to a lesser degree since the wolves there are spayed and neutered helping to reduce the aggression among the pack members. Most of these squabbles are between the middle ranking wolves as they compete for an elevated status within the pack. Grizzer who is currently the beta or second highest ranking wolf is being tested by Malik, the omega or lowest ranking adult wolf, and both the juveniles Denali and Aidan. Grizzer continues to be very submissive and tolerant of both pups and Malik is poised to take advantage of the situation whenever possible. Generally, Grizzer will simply put Malik back in his place, but Malik did get in at least one good bite on Grizzer’s face, which is now sporting a scar under his left eye. One form of intimidation a wolf may use against another is following or “dogging” a wolf. It is interesting to watch Grizzer and Malik trot in a circle around a large boulder making it difficult to determine who is dogging whom. I also watched with some amusement Grizzer up on the greeting rock playing with Denali while Aidan snuck up behind him and grabbed Grizzer by his hind leg and dragged him off the rock. This all seemed in the spirit of playing as Grizzer made no issue of this assault.

Maya is the only female in the pack and as such is considered the alpha or dominate female, which would lead you to believe she would be immune to the dominance tests. On the contrary however, she has been focusing her aggression toward Aidan. It is not clear why Aidan was singled out, perhaps because he is the smallest one in the pack or he projects a certain behavior that Maya picks up on. This is one of the reasons studying wolves can be so fascinating, there is always something there for the wolves to teach us if we are patient and observant. Aidan has at least been making all the correct gestures and behaviors and I am sure it is a vital lesson to learn when growing up to be a wolf.

Shadow, the alpha or dominate male, seems very secure with his rank this winter and has had no challenges from the lower ranking wolves. He continues to be a cohesive force keeping the pack bonded together.

Disclaimer note: I am a member and volunteer at the International Wolf Center (IWC), helping out at the ambassador’s desk and wolf care. These are my personal experiences and are not sanctioned by the IWC or represent an official log of the IWC’s wolves. Please visit www.wolf.org

Here are some of the recent locations of some radio collared wolves.

Most of the time, no visual contact is made during the study, but when they are spotted, additional information is provided such as the wolf’s activity (r= resting, s=sleeping, t= traveling ,f=feeding), if there is another radio-collared wolf present , total number of wolves seen together with the radio-collared wolf, and a speculation if more wolves could be present.

Wolf #877 was tracked and seen resting on December 1st with 4 other wolves near Bruin Lake, then tracked on December 9th near Crocket Lake, and seen again on December 16th traveling with another wolf near Nickle Lake.

Wolf #911 was tracked and seen resting on December 1st with 2 other wolves near Birch Dam and then seen resting on December 9th with 4 other wolves near White Iron Lake, then seen again near Birch Dam on December 16th traveling with 6 other wolves.

Wolf #919 was seen resting near Twin Lake on December 1st with 11 other wolves and then near Bear Island Lake on December 9th with 4 other wolves.

Wolf #945 was seen traveling with Wolf #7053 and 5 other wolves on December 1st near Farm Lake, then near Greenstone Lake on December 9th and December 16th.

This week’s photo shows Grizzer performing a balancing act of maintaining his higher rank with being tolerant of the pups and an ever present Malik ready to take advantage of any situation.

Happy Howls

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Nov 10, 2008

This past Friday November 7th, we lost our dear Lakota. Although she had been showing much improvement after the loss of her sister earlier this year, her advanced age of 15-1/2 years was beginning to take its toll on her well being. Her last day was heart-wrenching but also heart-warming, as most of the not only the wolf care staff but also most of the staff at the IWC showed up to spend time with Lakota in her final hours. There were many stories of love and respect as well as many humorous stories of Lakota’s antics throughout her life.

Although I have known of Lakota pretty much most of her life, it has only been the past 1-1/2 years I have had a chance to know her personally as a wolf care staff member. My time with her was a life-long dream realized as I fed her and administer her medications to her. I learned just how finicky a wolf could actually be trying to come up with something she would willingly take her meds with. After her sister Mackenzie pasted away, I grew much closer to Lakota, giving her belly rubs and gentle ear massages as I hand fed her. There were times when she reminded me that she was a true wolf and be careful where I place my hands, but she was still the gentlest of souls. Her antics of stealing items from the wolf lab and the massive holes she loved to dig provided her mental stimulation and much entertainment for the wolf care staff.

I don’t know if there is a heaven, but I like to think that Lakota has joined back with her siblings Lucas, Kiana, and Mackenzie and that they are all roaming free in some celestial forest. Of my friend, I know she will be missed but also live on in the heart of all of her human friends throughout the world.

Disclaimer note: I am a member and volunteer at the International Wolf Center (IWC), helping out at the ambassador’s desk and wolf care. These are my personal experiences and are not sanctioned by the IWC or represent an official log of the IWC’s wolves. Please visit www.wolf.org CodeConverted@MY360MI

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Oct 30, 2008

Wolf Social Ecology

Sharing the Surplus

What other factors cause wolves (or other carnivores) to live in groups, then? And why do the largest packs seem to be those preying on the largest quarry? Put another way, why don’t all young wolves disperse from their natal packs as soon as they are full developed, at about 7-12 months?

It turns out that they do, at least in some areas, and these cases are instructive. During the early 1970s in Italy, when few ungulates were present, most packs consisted of little more than pairs in winter. Similarly, packs are small in Israel, where wolves feed extensively on garbage and small animals (Mendelssohn 1982). That both the Italian and Israeli wolves were also subject to human exploitation confounds attempts to definitively relate small pack size to small scattered food sources, but the data are suggestive. With coyotes, pack size does relate to food source size (Bowen 1978).

If wolf pack size is related to food source size, but increased pack size not necessarily yield greater hunting efficiency, then why live in packs? The answer seems to be that the evolution of grouping in wolves has facilitated subsidy of young wolves by their parents through the sharing of large prey (Mech 1970, 1991b; Schmidt and Mech 1997). Since adults prey on large animals, a surplus of food suddenly becomes available periodically. Making this surplus available to kin in the most efficient approach adult wolves can take, except for eating it and caching it. Without a sufficient number of feeders, this surplus can be lost to competitors, scavengers, insects, and bacteria. Ravens can remove up to 34 kg (17 pounds) of a carcass per day, and can usurp some 66% of a lone wolf’s kill, compared with only 10% of the kills of a pack of ten (Promberger 1993; see also Stahler 200).

The kin selection explanation of why wolves live in packs (Schmidt and Mech 1997) fits the resource dispersion hypothesis. This theory holds that food quantity and distribution is the primary cause and determinant of group size (D.W. Macdonald 1983; von Schantz 1984). The types of prey wolves rely on have unique characteristics of richness (a large amount of food per prey), renewal (slow turnover), and heterogeneity (high patchy distribution and low density), which are the key conditions that the hypothesis predicts would foster group living (D.W. Macdonald 1983).

Wolf parents allow their young to remain with them so long as their food supply can support more individuals than themselves. From the offspring’s standpoint, if the food supply is secure, it is advantageous for them to stay with their parents rather than trying to find resources on their own, at least until the urge to breed compels them to seek a mate outside the natal pack. Although there are no experimental results confirming this theory, the fact that pack size tends to correlate with food supply (Mech 1977a; Messier 1985a) leads support to the theory.

Clearly wolf packs that prey on smaller animals such as deer would have less surplus food available per kill than packs that prey on moose or bison. Packs preying on moose or bison could afford to include a larger number of offspring, thus improving the inclusive fitness of the family (Rodman 1981). An efficient pair of adult breeders in a moose area, then, could feed members of two or three of their last litters of offspring. This would enhance the survival of those offspring and increase the chances of the parents’ own genes being disseminated. Inclusion of these maturing wolves on hunting forays would also give them practice and experience in hunting.

If maturing wolves accompany their parents in packs to gain easy forage, this may explain why large packs are not necessary to take large prey, yet the largest packs are usually found in areas with the largest prey. Simply put, large prey allows large packs, but do not require them.

When Mech (1966b) watched a pack of fifteen wolves lined up to feed around a moose carcass, he was impressed with the fact that not many more could have fit around it. Had there been more wolves, some would have to have gone hungry. Long before, Adolph Murie (1944) had suggested that prey size might limit pack size in this way.

Such a relationship could also explain why large packs are occasionally found temporarily even among wolves hunting smaller prey. If enough smaller prey could be killed either concurrently or in close sequence, more individuals could accompany a wolf pack than otherwise. During 1990, when the East Fork pack in Denali numbered up to twenty-nine, they often killed more than one sheep or caribou at a time (Mech et al. 1998). This behavior conforms to the theory that when feeding constraints are relaxed, hunting group size should increase (Caraco and Wolf 1975).

Source: Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation By L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani

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