Speaking Up for our Furry Friends
In the late 1970’s the Canadian Wildlife Service estimated the number of wolves in Riding Mountain National Park to between 60 – 100 individuals. This number decreased to 30 – 50 wolves by 1997. Fearing that Riding Mountain wolves were at risk of extirpation, Friends took on the role of increasing awareness of our often-misunderstood four-legged friend.
In addition to raising the profile of our wolves, Friends has been able to support two on-going research projects studying various aspects of the Riding Mountain wolf populations. In 2002, biologist Tim Sallows began his study on DNA, Disease and Diet of the Riding Mountain wolves. Just under 400 (396) wolf scat samples were collected from around the Park. Tim’s analysis revealed that elk make up about 54% of the wolves’ diet, beaver 20% and deer and moose about 12% each. No evidence was found of domestic livestock in any of the wolf scat. With help from Mountain Equipment Co-op’s Environment Fund and other fund-raising activities, Friends has been able to contribute over $12,000 to support Tim’s research.
In 2003 biologist Astrid Vik Stronen began a second study, primarily concerned with wolf movement, disease and genetic variability. Astrid continues to collect scat for analysis, in particular for DNA extractions to initiate the genetic studies. Currently there are 17 radio-collared wolves distributed in 8 different wolf packs within the park. The wolves are located from airplanes each week and their distribution mapped. Astrid’s work will help us understand the future of our Riding Mountain wolves.
As of January 2005, the estimated number of wolves in the area of Riding Mountain National Park has grown to 75 – 80!!
Friends continues its commitment to the wolves of Riding Mountain. A recent alliance with Alberta-based Wolf Awareness Inc. has enabled Friends to contribute $1,300 to Astrid’s research.
An important part of Friends’ mandate is education, so with that goal in mind, we continue to explain the plight of the RMNP wolves and the importance of the current research at every opportunity, by including the topic at Wednesday Night Live presentations, in various publications and at our Annual General Meeting.