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Wolves of the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Rolf O. Peterson, James D. Woolington and Theodore N. Bailey
Wildlife Monographs
No. 88, Wolves of the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska (Apr., 1984), pp. 3-52
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3830728
Page Count: 50
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Wolves of the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
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Abstract

Wolves (Canis lupus) recolonized Alaska's Kenai Peninsula in the 1960's following a 50-year absence. During 1976-81 wolf ecology and population dynamics were studied in 3-7 contiguous wolf packs on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Sixty-four wolves were captured and radio-collared 87 times; they were located 3,600 times from aircraft. Wolf density ranged from 11 to 20 wolves/1,000 km2. Wolves fed primarily on moose (density $0.8/{\rm km}^{2}$), and predation rate in winter averaged 1 moose/pack/4.7 days. Food consumption in winter was 0.12 kg/kg wolf/day, but intake apparently declined in summer. Calves composed 20% of the moose population but 47% of 206 wolf-killed moose examined; proportionately more calves were killed during a winter with deep snow. Average age for adult moose killed by wolves was 10.9 years, with wolf predation selectively removing the oldest moose in the population. All but 3 of 72 wolf-killed adult moose of which sex could be ascertained were females, reflecting the low proportion of bulls (12 bulls: 100 cows) brought about by moose harvest. Skeletal pathology was found in 35% of wolf-killed adult moose, and half of the wolf-killed calves taken after 1 January were severely malnourished. Typically 1 litter of wolf pups was born annually to the dominant female in each pack. Pups born to a socially subordinate female were growth-retarded and apparently died. One-third of the radio-collared wolves dispersed from their original packs. Extraterritorial movements were most commonly undertaken by subordinate adult wolves during the February breeding season. Survival of dispersing wolves was only half that of nondispersers; most dispersers were killed before they could reproduce successfully. Dispersing individuals comprised 27% of wolves taken by hunters and trappers on the study area after open seasons were reinstated in 1974. Mortality was largely human-caused, averaging 33% annually. Harvest increased rapidly, reducing pack size and causing declines in pack territory size. Additional packs developed in vacated areas, and total wolf density was maintained until annual kill exceeded 30-40% of the early winter population. At the close of the study, wolf density on the study area appeared regulated by harvest.

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