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During 1987-1991, 29 to 45 radio-collared caribou cows were monitored daily during calving each year and their calves were radio-collared (n = 147 calves) to investigate calf production and survival. We determined characteristics of wolf predation on caribou calves and, utilizing information from a companion wolf study, evaluated the role of spacing by caribou cows in minimizing wolf predation on neonates (calves < 15 days old) during a period when wolf abundance doubled. On average, 49% of the neonates died, ranging from 30% in 1987 to 71% in 1991. Overall, wolves killed 22% of the neonates produced and were the most important mortality agent. Wolves preyed on calves primarily during six days following the peak of calving and usually killed calves five to 15 days old. The mortality rate for neonates was strongly inversely correlated with average birthweight. Neonatal losses to wolves were also correlated with birthweight but not spring wolf density or mean calving elevation. Caribou concentrated on a calving ground when spring snow conditions allowed and adjusted their distribution on the calving ground depending on snow conditions and wolf distribution and abundance. Even though the wolf population doubled, the exposure of caribou calves to wolf predation did not increase, when spacing by caribou at the wolf pack territory scale was accounted for.
Additional Publication Details
Wolf predation on caribou calves in Denali National Park, Alaska
Ecology and conservation of wolves in a changing world
University of Alberta Canadian Circumpolar Institute