Traveling by dogsled in the winter woods gives us the chance to see what the animals of the boreal forest are up to. Animals usually hear and smell the dog teams. This makes it hard for us to see animals. The good news is that we can see where animals have been because they leave tracks in the snow. Wolves use the same trails that we do and we see their tracks often. Sometimes we find even more evidence of animal activity.
During this past week, we saw something that was much more exciting than just wolf tracks. After dogsledding across a portage and onto a lake near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, we saw a brown bump in the distance. There were a couple ravens near the bump. As we got closer, I could see that wolves had killed a moose. All that was left was the moose’s skeleton. The wolves probably hunted and killed this moose a day or two ago. After the wolves were finished with their meal, other animals like red foxes and ravens had a chance to eat what was left.
There are about 2,000 gray wolves living in Minnesota. The only state with more wolves is Alaska. Wolves usually try to stay away from people. They have good eye sight, hearing and an amazing sense of smell. Usually wolves see, hear, or smell us from a long way off. They run away before we see them, but we see their tracks, scat, fur, and bones from animals they have eaten when we are out dogsledding.
Different types of wolves live in different parts of the world. Wolves live in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. The two main species of wolves are gray wolves and red wolves. Gray wolf is the species of wolf that lives in Minnesota. The subspecies of gray wolf that lives in Minnesota is the Great Plains wolf. Other subspecies of gray wolf are the Mexican wolf, Mackenzie Valley or Alaskan wolf, Eastern wolf and Arctic wolf.
A Great Plains wolf is between 4½ and 6½ feet long. It weighs between 60 to 110 pounds. It’s fur can be gray, black or buff with reddish coloring. All wolves are social animals. Wolves communicate by using body language, scent marking and by making noise (howling). Wolves live in groups called packs. The average pack size for the Great Plains wolf is 5 to 6 wolves.
We will keep looking for evidence of wolves during the winter and we will report our findings to you. The moose carcass that we found will change over time as more animals eat it. We will give you updates about that as well.
Food for thought:
Have wolves ever lived your state?
Do wolves live in your state now?
What type of wolves were historically found in your state?
What caused wolves to become extinct in so many parts of the world?
Use the map below to help you answer these questions.
The green on this map shows where gray wolves live now. The red shows where gray wolves used to live. The dark gray shows where red wolves used to live in the United States.