Where and How Wolves Kill Beaver
July 4, 2019
Beavers (Castor canadensis) can be a significant prey item for wolves (Canis lupus) in boreal ecosystems due to their abundance and vulnerability on land. How wolves hunt beavers in these systems is largely unknown, however, because observing predation is challenging. We inferred how wolves hunt beavers by identifying kill sites using clusters of locations from GPS-collared wolves in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota. We identified 22 sites where wolves from 4 different packs killed beavers. We classified these kill sites into 8 categories based on the beaver-habitat type near which each kill occurred. Seasonal variation existed in types of kill sites as 7 of 12 (58%) kills in the spring occurred at sites below dams and on shorelines, and 8 of 10 (80%) kills in the fall occurred near feeding trails and canals. From these kill sites we deduced that the typical hunting strategy has 3 components: 1) waiting near areas of high beaver use (e.g., feeding trails) until a beaver comes near shore or ashore, 2) using vegetation, the dam, or other habitat features for concealment, and 3) immediately attacking the beaver, or ambushing the beaver by cutting off access to water. By identifying kill sites and inferring hunting behavior we have provided the most complete description available of how and where wolves hunt and kill beavers.
Author(s): Thomas D. Gable, Steve K. Windels, John G. Bruggink, Austin T. Homkes