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Wolves use human-created trails for convenient hunting and easy access to prey

Changes in wolf hunting behavior threaten caribou. Credits: Shutterstock

Zoom in and explore the northern forests to the north Google Earth West Canada You can see a long straight line going through the forest. These lines clear trails through the forest to extract resources, create roads for forestry, Seismic line I’m looking for underground oil and gas deposits.


Now imagine yourself facing the task of moving through this landscape. Do you go through dense trees and understory vegetation, or choose to walk on the sidewalk?

Like humans, wolves often choose and move the path with the least resistance. Faster and farther On a path made by humans in the forest.Increased wolf movement is believed to play an important role in the decline of wolves. Intimidated northern forest caribou— Canada’s iconic species (look at the quarter in your pocket).

As the wolves move further, they Encounter prey more oftenWhen Caribou Have been Hunted by wolves at speeds they cannot sustain..

Small area

But now we also found it Wolves who live in easy-to-move areas need less space to earn a living... The relationship is especially strong when the prey is low.

GPS collars were used to track 142 wolves over 500,000 square kilometers in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The tracked wolves span areas of low to high density of prey ( Habita There was various access to productivity, or the amount of vegetation of species like moose), and human-made trails.

Wolves use human-created trails for convenient hunting and easy access to prey

Seismic lines created by searching for underground oil and gas deposits.Credits: Natasha Crosland / Caribou Monitoring Unit, courtesy of author

Wolves living in densely populated areas of human-made paths occupy about one-twentieth the area of ​​wolves without paths, but only if they live in areas of low habitat productivity. Will be. By comparison, when wolves lived in productive areas of their habitat, the trails did not change the areas needed for wolves.

Consider choosing berries. If you have difficulty finding berries, you need to go far to get enough to fill the basket. But if something makes it easier for you to find berries, you don’t have to look around too much. You can just grab everything you see near you. If you have a lot of berries, the advantage of being able to easily find them is not so important, as you can skip some of them unknowingly. But if the numbers are small in the first place and all the last berries are important, it becomes more important.

This is exactly what we see in wolves. Instead of choosing to travel far, wolves with access to many trails stay close to their homes and go through with what they have.

The universe that animals use to live their lives Home range, or territory if protected from the same species, as in the case of wolves.. If the animal’s home range is narrow, it means that more animals can flock to a particular space and increase the density of that species.It’s well documented Animals need less space if food is plentiful Around — and now we know that easier access to that food can also reduce the size of the home range. We have found that increasing access to wolf prey, such as by cleaning paths in the forest, can reduce the size of the home range and increase the local density of wolves.

  • Wolves use human-created trails for convenient hunting and easy access to prey

    The areas covered by wolves are changing.Credits: Created by FUSE for Caribou Monitoring Unit / UBC-Okanagan / Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration and provided by the author

  • Wolves use human-created trails for convenient hunting and easy access to prey

    Remote camera capture of caribou in the northern forest. Changes in wolf hunting patterns threaten the already endangered caribou. Credit: Melanie Dickie / Caribou Monitoring Unit

Habitat recovery

But why do we care how big the wolf’s home range is? One of Canada’s biggest conservation challenges is forest caribou. Caribou lives in large areas, with overlapping areas where the energy and forestry sectors are actively extracting natural resources such as oil, gas and timber.

Habitat restoration and protection have been identified as follows: Important steps needed to recover a declining population.. Despite existing efforts and policies Caribou habitat loss continues to accelerate In most of Western Canada.

Habitat recovery is urgently needed, Expensive and time consuming..Prioritization Habitat recovery In areas where it is most beneficial to caribou as soon as possible for effective caribou management.

Habitat restoration has two main goals: wolf hunting efficiency Limit the use of trails When Slow down their movement when on top of them Return the forest to the caribou habitat. But now there is reason to believe that slowing down wolves can reduce the density of wolves in the landscape. Wolf To take up more space and drive out others — especially in low-productivity flark with a stronger impact on the home range.

Effective habitat restoration Other management actions like wolf management In the long run. But there is a lot of work in front of us. These cleared trails that need to be restored are hundreds of thousands of kilometers. Our research aims to prioritize low-productivity areas and see maximum effects faster.


Small insects pose a great threat to forest caribou


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Wolves use human-created trails for convenient hunting and easy access to prey

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