July 15, 2009

July 15, 2009 - Things are looking up! Stay tuned!

We began our day yesterday at our observation point overlooking the fjord, but with added interest in learning where our collared male might be now. The 11 muskoxen we saw on Monday re-appeared again as they foraged along the gullies. We heard the VHF signal from the collared male, and he was still across the fjord but much farther east than the night before last. We continued to listen for his signal throughout the day while waiting for wolves to show up - hopefully with one that we could collar. With the spotting scope and binoculars, we scanned the area where we heard the signal. We saw a wolf, but it was challenging to discern what was happening with the heat waves coming off the land.

We then saw a second wolf, and Dave was puzzled by what appeared from 4.5 miles away like a dark barrel with some red showing nearby. We observed the two wolves greet each other and then go towards the "barrel." Only it wasn't a barrel! Instead we then realized that this was an adult muskox the wolves had killed, probably last night. We continued to watch the kill site to figure out how many wolves were there and determined that there were five and the collared male was one of them.

We will rise early tomorrow morning to continue to watch the kill site.

On another interesting note, we learned from the nearby weather station that in over 45 years of weather keeping, today we broke an all-time record for a daytime high temperature at 20.9 degrees Celcius. That is close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit - an arctic heat wave.

Dean & Dave

Editors' Note

"Wildlife biologist." Even in a world in which, as Richard Louv (author of the book Last Child in the Woods) put it, children are suffering increasingly from "Nature Deficit Disorder," the notion of a career as a wildlife biologist is attractive to many young people. It may become increasingly so as the condition of our planet continues to deteriorate. The trend toward insulating children from nature may be reversing. As organizations and teachers and parents motivate young people to become engaged in solving global environmental problems and in becoming stewards of our earth, environmental careers in the outdoors may see a spike in popularity. We hope so.

But field work is not, as the International Wolf Center's Web Specialist Carissa Winter says, "as easy as throwing on your flannel shirt and jeans, strapping on your gear and walking into the wilderness to be instantly rewarded." Field work can be brutal - bad weather, biting bugs, exhaustion, equipment that fails, accidents, injury - and long periods when nothing happens and there is no guarantee that it will. It is work that earns tremendous pay-offs and sometimes no rewards whatsoever. It demands patience, persistence, a positive outlook and a thick skin, both against the bugs and against dashed hopes.

Carissa, who designs and oversees this Blog, likens the suspense building today to a soap opera! What will happen? Will Dave and Dean find the collared male and be lead to the breeding female? Will they find pups? Stay tuned!

We can't predict the outcome, but we hope you will stick with this adventure in research for two more days. Dave and Dean will have to head home on Friday, so the pressure really is mounting. Send them your strong thoughts!

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