This week’s Notes from the Trail is dedicated to wolves. Dave and I decided this was fitting due to all the wolf activity we have witnessed in the past week. On Tuesday, we heard a pack of wolves howling. As we listened after the howling had finished, we heard splashing in the shallows of the channel between Ensign Lake and Splash Lake. This got us wondering if wolves could catch fish.
On Wednesday, we paddled back to this same spot to investigate the fish more. As we were approaching the rapids, Dave exclaimed, “there’s a wolf!” I looked in the direction he was pointing. It took me a few seconds to see it. A young wolf had been down near the rapids, but when it saw us, it walked away. There was a steep, rocky hill for it to climb. We watched it walk up the hill. It stopped for a few seconds, looked at us, and smelled the air, trying to identify us. Then it disappeared into the trees. We were really excited to see this wolf!
When we landed our canoe, we saw fish scales all over the rocks. There were many fish swimming above and below the rapids. We are pretty sure that the type of fish is called a cisco. They have come to this place to spawn in the gravel of the rapids. When we first came to Ensign Lake, we had seen eagles perched in trees nearby. I knew they had been eating the fish. Was the wolf catching fish too?
Before answering this question, I’ll share with you what we do know about wolves. You can also learn more about wolves by following the links at the bottom of the page. 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. Male wolves are larger than females. Their 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.
At one time wolves were found throughout most of the United States. In recent history, they almost became extinct in the lower 48 states. Today wolves are found in Alaska, Canada, and the northern parts of Minnesota, Idaho, Washington, Montana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. There are about 2,000 gray wolves living in Minnesota now. The only state with more wolves is Alaska. Wolves usually try to stay away from people. They have good eyesight, hearing and an amazing sense of smell. Usually wolves see, hear, or smell us from a long way off. They usually run away before we see them. We have been looking forward to the winter, because when snow covers the ground we have an easier time seeing what wolves have been up to. We see their tracks and scat more easily in the snow. Did you know that wolf scat contains fur and pieces of bones from animals they have eaten?
After doing a little research, I found several examples of wolves eating fish in British Columbia and Alaska. When salmon swim upstream to spawn, it is not uncommon for wolves to catch and eat the salmon- just like brown bears! While we have yet to see a wolf catch a cisco here, we now know that it is possible.
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?
Photo credit: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Howlsnow.jpg
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