Wolf predation on caribou calves in Denali National Park, Alaska

Occasional Publication of the Canadian Circumpolar Institute -35

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Edited by:
Ludwig N. Carbyn , Steven H. Fritts , and Dale R. Seip


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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

Publication type:
Conference Paper
Publication Subtype:
Conference Paper
Wolf predation on caribou calves in Denali National Park, Alaska
Series title:
Occasional Publication of the Canadian Circumpolar Institute
Year Published:
Canadian Circumpolar Institute, University of Alberta
Publisher location:
Edmonton, AB
Contributing office(s):
Alaska Biological Science Center
16 p.
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Conference publication
Larger Work Title:
Ecology and conservation of wolves in a changing world: Proceedings of the second North American symposium on wolves: Occasional Publication 35
First page:
Last page:
Conference Title:
Second North American Symposium on Wolves
Conference Location:
Edmonton, AB
Conference Date:
25-27 August 1992