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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Distribution and Abundance of Predators that Affect
Duck Production: Prairie Pothole Region

Species Accounts -- Carnivores

Gray Wolf

Habitat and History. Gray wolves were abundant throughout the prairie pothole region before settlement but were largely extirpated by the early 1900's (Bailey 1926; N. Criddle 1929; Young and Goldman 1944; Soper 1946; Bird 1961; Carbyn 1984). However, gray wolves remained in the bordering forested zone where they continue to live (Banfield 1974; Carbyn 1982, 1984). Gray wolves occasionally invade the prairie and aspen parkland (Carbyn 1981, 1984) but have been unsuccessful in reestablishing viable populations. Gray wolves living near humans are highly vulnerable to human inflicted mortality (Carbyn 1981, 1984; Fritts et al. 1985; Mech 1989).

Population Structure. Gray wolf populations are generally composed of territorial packs of 3-20 or more individuals that often travel together and some lone and transient individuals (Mech 1970; Carbyn 1987). Average territory size of packs ranges from about 125 to >600 km2 and is inversely related to population size (Carbyn 1987).

Distribution and Abundance. Tracks of gray wolves were found only in one study area (Moore Park) in 1983 (Fig.6; Appendix Table 5). The tracks were found during both searches and occurred in 4 scattered quarter sections in the eastern half of the area. Measurements of tracks indicated presence of one individual; species abundance was scarce. A landowner reported the occurrence of gray wolves was not unusual in that area. The study area is 50 km south of the Riding Mountain National Park (2,944 km2 forested wilderness enclave) where a population of gray wolves resides (Carbyn 1982, 1984).

Fig. 6. Percentage of searched quarter sections (in black) by study area in which gray wolf tracks were found or in which the abundance of tracks was estimated during two systematic annual searches in April-June in >= 1 study year (Appendix Table 5) and ratings of the abundance of gray wolves in each area, 1983-88. Results for study areas searched >1 year were averaged; study areas are in the prairie pothole region.

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