July 11, 2010

Checking Possible Kills by Helicopter

Our dilemma in trying to check our many location clusters by helicopter was that we wanted to check as many sites as possible for as long as we needed at each site, like we did yesterday from the ground. With high fuel prices and a larger helicopter than usual being the only one available, we only had an hr of time available instead of the 2 hr  for which we had budgeted. Thus we had to compromise by deciding to spend 1 minute of search time (4 people searching) per site. We also were coming to realize that probably our putative kill clusters more represented where the wolves rested after feeding on the kills rather than the exact sites of the kills. Thus we would have to search farther from the actual locations than we realized. One minute would not give us much time to search farther away. Still this was the reality we had to deal with.

It took several minutes to fly to our first cluster of locations, and we also flew over the 2009 den just to verify its not being used. Thus we only had time to examine 13 clusters. As we swirled around the first cluster, we realized that more time would surely be much better even though the view from the helicopter allowed a pretty good look at everything on the barren ground. And the ease of travel surely beat the bouncing around we would have had to endure on our ATVs even if the area had been accessible to us.        

By the end of the hour we had located several kills and were unsure about a few others where perhaps more searching would have allowed us to find others. After landing, examining our data, and discussing it, we were psyched up enough about the potential of this technique to want very badly to try it again. Thus we decided that we would try our best to scrape up enough pennies for another round if weather permitted and the helicopter was free of transporting other research camps around the area.



  1. Jayne MullinsJuly 11, 2010

    when my dad passed away in 1993 I purchased Dave Mech's book, Way of the Wolf, and donated it to the Manitowoc Public Library (WI). Dad had a huge repect and awe for all things wild which I too share. Wolves (and black bear)are gradually making trails of their own into central and southwestern Wisconsin. It's fascinating to follow but their survival, of course, depends on our ability to allow them to share land they have just as much right to (if not more) than we do.

  2. What is the search radius for the clusters? also I'm sure you mentioned this in an earlier post, but how often do your argos collars take locations?

    Searching a tundra sounds much better than searching a cedar swamp!

    Thank you.

  3. Tyler,
    Our collar was set to take locations every 12 hr. Our aerial search radius varies from roughly 200-400 m, but we only search for 2 min. because of cost ($45/min.).