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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

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Historically, wolves inhabited all of Saskatchewan, living off buffalo in the south. Today, Saskatchewan's wolf population, which numbers in the 2,000 to 3,000 range, lives exclusively in the forested north,,,,,,,,,,,As Moose move South, the Wolves will likely follow into regions not inhabited for the last 100 years

Growing Sask. moose population may bring wolves

By Tonaya Marr,

A young bull moose was spotted in the Cathedral area of the city June 1, 2012 in Regina, SK. After tranquilizing the animal it was taken by flat bed tow truck to a spot outside the city to recover and be set free.Photograph by: Bryan Schlosser , Leader-Post filesREGINA — The pair of recent moose sightings in Regina may seem like a fluke, but the city-visiting animals may be a sign of a growing moose population in southern Saskatchewan.

With the moose comes the possibility of the moose’s natural predator: wolves.

“(The moose population has) expanded quite a bit in southern Saskatchewan over the last 20 years,” said Gary Provencher, a conservation officer for the Ministry of Environment. “From what we know, they’ve just wandered in from northern areas or areas like Cypress Hills and Moose Mountain where they’ve always been and they’ve found good areas of habitat and their population has expanded over the years.”

The wolves may be following their food source south as well, according to Provencher.
“The main natural predator of moose is wolves, and we’re starting to get them showing up in southern Saskatchewan in the odd spot,” he said. According to Provencher, individual wolves have been seen in a couple areas near Saskatoon and Swift Current, considerably further south than they’ve been in the past.“It’s now quite possible that we might end up with more wolves in southern Saskatchewan, too,” said Provencher.

At this point, there’s little concern over wolves in southern Saskatchewan, but if more wolf sightings occur, attempts to manage the population may need to be made. Northern areas of the province, including Hudson’s Bay and Nipawin, have had to establish bounties on wolves through the local municipalities to manage the wolf population.

The only other predators of moose in the south are humans, and hunting seasons have been established to help control the population. But in the area around Regina, where the human population is dense, establishing hunting seasons can be a bit of a challenge. High-calibre rifles aren’t allowed, so hunters must use “primitive” weapons like bows, crossbows and muzzle loaders.


Tracking the Grey Ghosts

P.A. Park wolf study offers new perspective on habits and lifestyle

Byron Jenkins

The StarPhoenix

The image of a wolf's head has been a Prince Albert National Park symbol for years. However, few summer holidayers to Waskesiu ever catch a glimpse of animals so elusive they're sometimes called "grey ghosts." It might therefore surprise people that one of Saskatchewan's holiday hot spots is one of the few national parks in Canada that supports a healthy and thriving wolf population.

Canadian National Parks officials and the Saskatchewan public will now know a lot more about the park's wolves, thanks to a study recently completed by University of Saskatchewan wildlife biologist, Erin Urton.  Urton spent two and a half years researching wolves in the park. Her just-completed master's thesis will help people understand these intelligent, group-oriented symbols of the Canadian wilderness.

While wolf studies have been carried out in other parts of Canada and that information extrapolated to populations here, Saskatchewan's wolves have never been the subject of a major study of this sort.
"There is nothing on population or what they eat," says Urton. "We can make good guesses at this based on research done in Alberta and Manitoba, but any time you look into books and literature about wolves, there is always this 'unknown' for the province of Saskatchewan."

Urton aimed to get as much broad-scale ecological information as she could, starting with determining the numbers of wolves that inhabited the park, where in the park they lived and what they liked to eat.
Park officials wanted to know whether the wolves interbred with wolves from outside the park. They were also keen to learn if they were inclined to dine on park herds of wild bison, or cattle from ranches outside the park boundaries.
One positive finding of Urton's study is that the park's wolf population is thriving, primarily because they are living in a diverse and healthy park ecosystem, surrounded by an intact forest populated by other wolf groups
Urton's groundbreaking DNA research into the genetic make-up of the park's wolves was instrumental in determining their reproductive health. Her study concluded that most, if not all, of the PANP wolves roam outside of the park, allowing for the opportunity to interbreed with other wolves.

By comparison, the wolf population in Manitoba's Riding Mountain National Park is facing disease and decline largely because it is an "island population" cut off from interbreeding and widening its gene pool with surrounding wolf groups. In Banff National Park, wolves are threatened with extinction due to ever-increasing incursions into their habitat by the human population.

Urton describes the wolf as a barometer of wilderness health. Because wolves inhabit the top of the food chain, their existence in an area is a sign there is ample wilderness territory and plenty of healthy deer, elk, moose and beaver.

Historically,  wolves inhabited all of Saskatchewan, living off buffalo in the south. Today, Saskatchewan's wolf population, which Urton believes numbers in the 2,000 to 3,000 range, lives exclusively in the forested north.

  Dislike for wolves in Canada is largely limited to agricultural areas, where ranchers have serious problems with wolves taking livestock, something she's witnessed in other parts of the country.
"We don't have as much trouble with it in Saskatchewan because there's still a lot of wild prey. I think the wolves here are not interested in livestock so much because there is so much of this wild prey still available."

Wolf research in the past often involved darting, collaring, capturing and even killing wolves to study them. Park officials wanted to avoid invasive techniques, which can disturb or alter the animals' behaviour. What Urton and her crew did was a sort of wilderness poop-scoop, collecting wolf scat and examining it.  "We gathered scat, kept it frozen and brought it to a lab in Saskatoon to analyse it. Within wolf scat are epidermal cells which are sloughed off from the animal's intestinal lining. We can isolate DNA from those cells."

She followed tracks into all parts of the park, but avoided disturbing them through close contact.

"In the interest of where I could collect samples, we did some tracking. There were places where we thought there may have been a den, so we only went in at certain times of the year." She picked up 74 separate genotypes of wolves and estimates that there are somewhere between 75 and 100 wolves, living in at least five separate groupings in PANP. "To survive there, they eat a lot of elk, deer and smaller animals, such as beaver. "In terms of what I found in their scat, it was mostly deer. But looking at it, in terms of biomass, they consumed more elk. Some tests made it appear as though they were selecting elk, preferring this prey to deer."

As to their eating bison or livestock, Urton's study showed that they did neither. "We didn't find any bison remains. There's a small chance that in the summertime, they would take the bison calves, but it would be very, very rare. "A lot of these places we collected scats were right adjacent to farm lands. There is no doubt that wolves have access to livestock and there was no evidence they'd eaten any."

Overall, she found a healthy population of wolves. "The genetic diversity is high, if not higher than other North American populations, such as in the North West Territories (where they) are not disturbed. There was also no sign of population depression of wolves in the park."

Other Canadian national parks are interested in the Saskatchewan findings, notes Urton.
"It is important for them to be able to look at our research, done in a similar habitat and a similar size of park. They are really interested in this data to compare it with their own."

Urton, 27, grew up in Prince Albert and came by her interest in wolves through wilderness outings as a child. Her research work involved something she still loves; long days in the outdoors, typically from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"We did a few overnight trips and multiple day trips where we'd ski in to a cabin and stay for a few nights to do some tracking in the more remote parts of the park that were difficult to access." Other times they were able to use bikes. Park wardens were helpful, collecting wolf scat for her and reporting their observations.

She asserts that the lingering prejudice against them is perpetuated by old myths. "People just need to be educated about them. That's changing, now, too. You don't see as much of it as you used to."
Saskatchewan is one of the few regions of the world where you can still see wolves in the wild. PANP is one of only eight national parks in Canada where the wolf is protected. The park even promotes tourist interaction through family wolf howling sessions each summer. Keeping the wolf population healthy for future generations will probably depend on sustaining the health of the boreal forest surrounding the park, says Urton.

"In the past couple of years, you've seen a lot of issues concerning the health of the boreal forest, particularly in Saskatchewan. Logging has increased in the past five to 10 years. Given this increase, the park itself, in my opinion, is under increased threat of isolation. It has a high chance of turning into this tiny piece of isolated habitat."

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