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Studying the Wolves of Riding Mountain National Park

posted May 1, 2018, 8:09 PM by chloe owens

2/27/18, by Candy Irwin, Manitoba Co-operator

Studying the wolves of Riding Mountain National Park

Since the spring of 2016, Christina Prokopenko has been collecting data on the behaviour and population of wolves in Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP). Prokopenko, who is a Vanier Scholar completing her doctoral thesis out of Memorial University in Newfoundland, undertook the research to better understand the ecology of RMNP’s estimated 70 to 75 wolves and their prey. Her method was to study wolves with GPS-equipped collars, to determine areas of intense use, indicated by clusters of points in a specific area over time. Thirteen animals from three packs were collared in 2016 and 14 animals from five packs were studied in 2017. Prokopenko also found variation between wolf packs in their hunting behaviour, and not surprisingly, seasonal variation in diet, which is more diverse during the summer when smaller prey, like beavers or young ungulates are available. “In winter,” said Prokopenko, “we are seeing that RMNP wolves are changing their diet composition from elk to moose.” As in past research, testing of scat has once again revealed no evidence of domestic animals — so no livestock…Of the 27 wolves collared, 14 died during the study; the two in the pack aggression, eight attributed to complications from disease, and four as a result of wolf/human interaction (two animals were shot, one trapped and one poisoned when venturing outside the park). Even though these few went outside the park, the GPS-collared sample population were observed to spend the majority of their time within RMNP boundaries.