The ethology of wolves foraging on freshwater fish in a boreal ecosystem
June 3, 2023
Through global positioning system (GPS) collar locations, remote cameras, field observations and the first wild wolf to be GPScollared with a camera collar, we describe when, where and how wolves fish in a freshwater ecosystem. From 2017 to 2021, we recorded more than 10 wolves (Canis lupus) hunting fish during the spring spawning season in northern Minnesota, USA. Wolves ambushed fish in creeks at night when spawning fish were abundant, available and vulnerable in shallow waters. We observed wolves specifically targeting sections of rivers below beaver (Castor canadensis) dams, suggesting that beavers may indirectly facilitate wolf fishing behaviour. Wolves also cached fish on shorelines. We documented these findings across five different social groups at four distinct waterways, suggesting that wolf fishing behaviour may be widespread in similar ecosystems but has probably remained difficult to study given its annual brevity. Spawning fish may serve as a valuable pulsed resource for packs because the spring spawning season coincides with low primary prey (deer Odocoileus virginianus) availability and abundance, and when packs have higher energetic demands owing to newly born pups. We demonstrate the flexibility and adaptability of wolf hunting and foraging behaviour, and provide insight into how wolves can survive in a myriad of ecosystems.
Author(s): Danielle R. Freund, Thomas D. Gable, Sean M. Johnson-Bice, Austin T. Homkes, Steve K. Windels, and Joseph K. Bump