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The patterns of selection by wolves (Canis lupus) preying on moose (Alces alces), caribou (Rangifer tarandus), and Dall sheep (Ovis dalli) in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska were studied from 1986 through early 1992. Wolves and their prey are legally protected or relatively unharvested in most of the area, and wolf numbers doubled during the study. Based on remains of 294 moose, 225 caribou, and 63 sheep, wolves killed calves and old adults disproportionately, and individuals with low marrow fat, jaw necrosis, or arthritis. Seasonal trends in proportions of various species, ages, and sex of kills were found. During the winters following winters of deep snowfalls, wolves greatly increased the proportion of caribou cows and calves taken. We conclude that in a natural system, wolves can survive on vulnerable prey even during moderate weather, and when snowfall exceeds average, they can respond by switching to newly vulnerable prey and greatly increasing their numbers.
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Patterns of prey selection by wolves in Denali National Park, Alaska