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The Science Before a Hunt

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The Science Before a Hunt

Post by Strong on Tue Aug 30, 2011 11:22 am

Introduction to the Science Before A Hunt

Wolves have the ability to hunt on their own or in packs, kill their own prey or steal it from others, and locate their prey by either chance encounters or scent. Wolves eat mostly ungulates, including white-tailed deer, moose, elk, bison, and if necessary, other smaller mammals including beavers and rabbits. Of these species, the wolf's prey depends upon geographic locality. For instance, wolf kills in south-central Alaska were 70% moose. However, in Wisconsin, 55% of all wolf kills are white-tailed deer. Moose calves and yearlings were the primary targets of the attacks in Ballard et al.'s study, as wolves prefer to prey on the weakest members of any ungulate herd.

Caribou were the second most preyed upon animal. It was found that large packs killed ungulates more frequently than the smaller packs. However, kill rates per wolf, were greater for the smaller packs. The ungulates were usually heavily utilized by wolves. Over 7.1 kg of food were available to each wolf per day in the winter, even though 10% of the kills were shared with brown bears.

The tracks of each hunted species was collected in an attempt to see if the wolf actually had a preference for eating deer over elk and moose, or if deer were simply more available. It was determined that wolves prefer deer over elk and moose, and preferred elk over moose.

Prey Characteristics

Wolves prefer to kill more fawns and elder deer (older than 6.5 years) than they do deer from 1.5-2.5 years of age. The number of fawns that wolves kill may actually be underrepresented in some of these studies as wolves will sometimes eat the entire fawn carcass. Wolves kill more vulnerable prey: the old, the young, and the weak. The Dominant Pair usually initiates and coordinates the pack hunts, and thus they are responsible for determining which ungulate to chase. The larger the pack size, the more likely that the pack can kill a large ungulate. If there are other large carnivores in the area there is high competition for prey if there are not a high number of ungulates in the area. However, in this wild, there are usually more than enough ungulates to feed all large carnivores and keep competition at a minimum.

Source: http://www.bio.davidson.edu/people/vecase/behavior/Spring2004/porter/Prey.htm


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