Visitor Counter

hitwebcounter web counter
Visitors Since Blog Created in March 2010

Click Below to:

Add Blog to Favorites

Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

Subscribe via email to get updates

Enter your email address:

Receive New Posting Alerts

(A Maximum of One Alert Per Day)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lone Wolves dispersing from their natal pack can oftern wander hundreds of miles in search of a vacant territory and a suitable mate...............These marathon forays can often result in death from starvation as it is much harder to get enough nutrition operating solo rather than as a pack member when hunting prey.

How one Alaska wolf travels 2,100 miles before dying of starvation

I last wrote about the wolf in August 2011. The silvery black creature was somewhere in the rolling tundra east of Deadhorse, having traveled more than 1,500 miles from its former home in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve on the Yukon River last summer. The wolf was on a journey of great risk and potential reward, said John Burch, a biologist who fitted it with a collar that transmitted GPS coordinates to satellites every few days.

Wolves from resident packs often kill “dispersing” wolves, such as the healthy 100-pound male from Yukon-Charley. But if the wolf on the move finds a territory in which the dominant male is dead, or if it finds another female on the move without a resident pack, it might form a new group, Burch said.

The big Yukon-Charley male seemed to have had some luck at the latter, at least for a while.
“He appeared to settle down for a bit on the North Slope,” Burch said. “I would guess he found a mate for a while. But they broke up for some reason and he headed south again.”
After a few weeks of stability in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range, the wolf headed south as winter set in. It loped through a low mountain pass and padded down the Chandalar and upper Koyukuk river drainages. The wolf continued south once again, across the Arctic Circle a few hundred miles west of where it passed the imaginary line going northward last May.
The satellite transmitter told Burch the wolf wandered near the Dalton Highway and then retreated a bit northward to the Kanuti River, about a mile east of the road. There, last Oct. 18, signals from the satellite collar indicated the wolf had stopped moving. Burch and Seth McMillan went out to recover the collar from the wolf. They found it curled up under a spruce tree, dead.“He was really emaciated,” Burch said. “He weighed 69 pounds from the 103 he weighed when we collared him.”

The wolf starved to death. Burch knows this from its body condition and because Alaska Department of Fish and Game veterinarian Kimberly Beckman examined the wolf and didn’t find any debilitating injuries or a crippling load of parasites. “I think (starvation in wolves) is more common than people think,” Burch said. “I think there’s some misconception about wolves being able to kill whenever they want to. Sometimes wolves can kill anything they want any time they want. Sometimes they can’t.”

The wolf had felt the ache of deep hunger before. A few months after his mate in Yukon-Charley and he were both fitted with collars, biologists noticed that the pair kept coming back to the same moose carcass, even after little remained but scattered bones and hair. The female died there, also of starvation. Soon after, the male took off northward on his impressive journey.
Burch found it interesting -- but not surprising -- that in its 2,085 miles of travel in half a year, the wolf never seemed to cross a road, though it probably came close enough to the Dalton Highway to hear the groan of trucks and smell burned diesel.

“He may never have encountered a road or vehicles,” Burch said. “Wolves are cagey and reluctant with things that are unknown. It helps them stay alive.”

The lone, wandering wolf has again showed Burch, who has studied wolves for decades, a few things about their behavior; one of them is that though life in the pack is good for many wolves, non-dominant wolves that don’t get to breed will often split. And even dominant wolves take off.
“Biologists choose to capture and collar the alpha or breeding pair that are least likely to disperse, but still, even they disperse sometimes,” Burch said. “It makes you think, ‘Man, there must be a lot of wolves dispersing all over, all the time.’ Those dispersing wolves are looking for a place to live, and it doesn’t take long to repopulate an area once wolves have been killed. It’s a big factor in wolf population dynamics.

“And it’s not that wolves are doing something different,” Burch said. “It’s that we’re able to see it now (with GPS collars in addition to radio collars tracked by airplane).”

Ned Rozell is a science writer at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Geophysical Institute. This column is used with permission.

No comments: