July 09, 2010

Searching Possible Kill Sites

As soon as we were organized, had 3 ATVs running, and determined that neither the old den nor the 2009 den were being used, we headed out on a long journey to search sites where we expected to find the remains of kills that Brutus and pack had made during July 2009 through April this year. To select such sites, we reasoned as follows. First, we knew that we would not be able to find sites where the pack had killed small prey such as arctic hares or muskox calves. We already knew that the pack of 20+ wolves would consume these animals quickly and leave little trace. However, much of the wolves' prey consists of adult muskoxen which weigh several hundred pounds. With such prey, wolves eat their fill and then rest and sleep, and this takes over 12 hours. Thus by choosing consecutive 12-hr locations with short distances between them (example: 0 to perhaps 300 meters as opposed to movements of many miles), we should get an indication of where the wolves had fed on a large animal. 

For example, in the following table of hypothetical but typical distances between 12-hr locations, we would choose location 5 to indicate a possible kill of a large animal:

    Location     Km from previous 12-hr location

          1                            29.473

          2                              9.982

          3                            14.321

          4                            19.598

          5                            15.551

          6                              0.023

          7                              0.009

We had already selected over 50 such sites distributed far and wide over our wolf pack's range. Most such sites were inaccessible to us except by helicopter, but there was one grouping of 5 sites all within reasonable range of our ATVs. Thus at 2:34 p.m. on July 5, we started out to examine these 5 locations.



  1. Thanks very much for explain us what you are doing.

  2. What is the km range with a helicopter when searching for kills assuming full research crew onboard? I imagine they can't carry too much extra fuel (weight limits and hazard) and there aren't many gas pumps scattered across the landscape so I guess they have to return to base fairly frequently?

  3. Hi, Shannon.
    This is a large chopper with about a 3-hr fuel range. We are limited by budget ($2,800/hr) not fuel range.