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Beavers Are A Surprisingly Significant Food Source For Gray Wolves During The Open Water Season According To New Research Done At Voyageurs National Park
July 4, 2019
Wolves (Canis lupus) are opportunistic predators and will capitalize on available abundant food sources. However, wolf diet has primarily been examined at monthly, seasonal, or annual scales, which can obscure short-term responses to available food. We examined weekly wolf diet from late June to early October by collecting scats from a single wolf pack in northeastern Minnesota. During our 15 wk study, nonungulate food types constituted 58% of diet biomass. Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawns were a major food item until mid-July after which berries (primarily Vaccinium and Rubus spp.) composed 56–83% of weekly diet biomass until mid-August. After mid-August, snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) and adult deer were the primary prey. Weekly diet diversity approximately doubled from June to October as wolves began using several food types in similar proportions as the summer transitioned into fall. Recreational hunting of black bears (Ursus americanus) contributed to weekly wolf diet in the fall as wolves consumed foods from bear bait piles and from gut piles/carcasses of successfully harvested or fatally wounded bears. To our knowledge, we are the first to examine wolf diet via scat analysis at weekly intervals, which enabled us to provide a detailed description of diet plasticity of this wolf pack, as well as the rapidity with which wolves can respond to new available food sources.
Author(s): Thomas D. Gable, Steve K. Windels, John G. Bruggink, Shannon M. Barber-Meyer