A few Minnesota wolves will now be recording their summer exploits, thanks to an exciting project by researchers at the Voyageurs Wolf Project. This week, the group released the first ever collared footage of a wild wolf. We hope that the candid films, which continue this year, provide a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of these adaptable creatures, such as their recently discovered habit of freshwater fishing.
the Travelers Wolf Project, led by scientists at the University of Minnesota, aims to unravel one of the biggest mysteries about wolves living in North America, especially those who live inside Voyageurs National Park: how they spend their time. summer months.
In winter, wolves tend to form packs that allow them to hunt large prey like deer and moose. But summer comes, and after the birth of the next generation of wolves in the spring, they become more lonely. UMN researchers want to better understand the changes in wolf hunting behavior that occur during the summer, as well as how these behaviors might affect the survival of baby wolves. Their past work has consisted of equipping wolves from different packs with GPS collars, which has already enabled them to map their territories.
By trying to get closer to wild wolves, without disrupting their natural behavior, some research teams have managed to track wolves in the air using drone cameras. But according to researcher Thomas Gable, it just wasn’t a viable option for them. Not only are these types of cameras expensive, they are also inconvenient in the dense vegetation that emerges in the park every summer. Instead, his team decided to test whether the cameras attached to a discreet collar, developed by the company Vectronic-Aerospace, could do the job.
Getting the Wolves to cooperate early on isn’t exactly child’s play, however.
“Yes, wolves are very difficult to study and paste, especially in our area,” Gable told Gizmodo over the phone. “The most common way, and the way we do, is to use rubber padded foot traps that have been modified to ensure safe capture and release. Basically they will step on a trap and it will hold their foot until you can get to it. And then you can put them to sleep and put the collar on. But that’s a lot easier said than done, because wolves are very smart, very wary, and they’re not easy to catch.
They finally managed to attach a camera to a lone wolf dubbed V089 in early May. V089 then carried the camera for six weeks at the end of June when the collar fell off as expected. This week, they posted some footage from V089’s streaming video to YouTube, which the team says are the first such footage to be captured on wild wolves.
The camera records for 30 seconds at a time, once an hour in daylight. The shaggy fur of the wolf, left over from winter, too obscured the pictures a bit. But even with these limitations, the team was able to learn a lot. Namely, they reaffirmed Previous search theirs showing that the wolves of the region hunt for fish in fresh water. Although wolves in Alaska and parts of Canada are known to fish, it is during salmon spawning season when salmon migrate from the ocean to rivers in large numbers to lay their eggs.
The team’s previous research and the new images, however, suggest that wolves elsewhere may very well fish under more ordinary circumstances. V089 is particularly astute in his fishing style, as he appears to have settled near a beaver dam, waiting to catch fish that cannot cross him.
“Until recently, wolves hunting and killing freshwater fish was something people didn’t even really know had happened. And our project documented that this was from a particular pack a few years ago. But we thought the behavior was totally limited to this one pack; that it was one of those weird and interesting things that this particular group of animals figured out, ”Gable said. “But the fact that this wolf started doing this proves that it is not a one-time thing.
Outside of their camera footage, the team found evidence that a wolf from another pack also went fishing last summer. While they are still working to collect evidence, their current theory is that fishing is both a learnable and a teachable behavior in these wolves.
“It seems like individuals seem to figure this out on their own, and then they can sort of pass that on to their offspring, at least based on what we can anecdotally say at this point,” Gable said.
The pilot experience being a great success, the team will now equip three wolves with cameras this summer. And they are already planning to improve the images.
“We’re probably going to cut the hair back a little bit so it’s out of line of sight. There is a certain amount of interference that you will never get away from, just because of the way wolves walk and hold their heads – you will always see their chin. But hopefully there won’t be any hairs all over the frame, ”said Gable. “We shared a lot of good things; there’s a lot of footage where it’s just wet, muddy hair.
For now, the team is hopeful that their current work can give people a new perspective on wolves.
“Fishing behavior shows how adaptable wolves are and how good they really are at finding unique food sources,” Gable said. “There’s this idea that wolves will only prey on big prey, just moose and deer and things like that. But they are also very good opportunists, and they will take advantage of all kinds of different food sources that are available to them.