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Wolf Population Dynamics and Prey Relationships in Northeastern Alberta

Todd K. Fuller and Lloyd B. Keith
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 44, No. 3 (Jul., 1980), pp. 583-602
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3808006
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3808006
Page Count: 20
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Wolf Population Dynamics and Prey Relationships in Northeastern Alberta
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Abstract

Population studies of wolves (Canis lupus) were carried out during October 1975-June 1978 on 2 study areas in northern Alberta; 13 wolves in 6 packs and 2 lone wolves were captured, radio-collared, and located 939 times. Telemetry data indicated a winter wolf density of 1/158 km2 near Fort McMurray. Numbers increased from 1975 to 1977 at a rate of about 21% annually. The winter wolf density of 1/90km2 on a study area in the Swan Hills, 300 km southwest, appeared lower than in past years. The difference in wolf density between the 2 areas reflected available food resources. Trapping and early pup deaths were likely the major mortality factors. Wolves killed disproportionately more young, old, and probably debilitated moose (Alces alces), as well as more female calves and adult bulls. Most wolf kills in winter (88%) were made in lowland habitats despite an even distribution of moose in uplands and lowlands. Deeper snow and colder temperatures in 1978 resulted in decreased travel by 1 pack (straight-line distances between daily locations of 5.7 vs. 9.0 km/day). The mean kill rate of this pack was similar in both years (1 moose/4.7 days); per capita consumption decreased slightly in 1978 (0.12 vs. 0.15 kg prey/kg wolf/day) because of larger mean pack size (9.8 vs. 9.2). An equation was derived for calculating true kill rates when relocation flights were spaced more than 1 day apart. Summer food habits of wolves (1,723 scats analyzed) indicated that adult moose remained the staple food in all areas. Use of beaver (Castor canadensis) was related to availability. One wolf pack annually consumed about 15% of the yearling and older moose in their territory, close to the estimated 19% annual recruitment of new yearlings. Two lone wolves and 2 packs were partially dependent on dumps for food during winter; predation rates by these packs were much lower. Wolf densities near disturbed sites were higher than in surrounding areas.

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