Wolves, it seems, aren’t exactly enthusiastic fishers. While they’re a pretty enthusiastic predator of plenty of other species, until now it was thought that they would only go after salmon when they spawned along the coasts; they weren’t known to hunt freshwater fish.
One video from researchers at the University of Minnesota and officials at Voyageurs National Park has challenged that assumption.
In a clip posted to Facebook on Thursday, the Voyageurs Wolf Project demonstrated that the hearty predators will indeed go after scaly prey in lakes and streams.
“We (a collaborative group of researchers from Voyageurs National Park and Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology — Univ. of Minnesota) captured this nighttime footage near Voyageurs National Park with remote cameras in spring 2018,” the post read.
“While wolves are known to hunt spawning salmon in marine coasts, this is one of the only observations of wolves hunting freshwater fish in creek and stream networks of boreal ecosystems like Voyageurs,” it said.
Here’s the evidence. The people at the Voyageurs Wolf Project advise you to “(t)urn up the volume so you can hear the wolves chase, catch, and crunch spawning suckers!” So, if you’re averse, maybe you should just skip it — or, if you’re into this sort of thing, turn the volume up. (It helps to have a vegan nearby, too.)
Watch the first ever video footage of wolves hunting freshwater fish (to our knowledge). Turn up the volume so you can hear the wolves chase, catch, and crunch spawning suckers! We (a collaborative group of researchers from Voyageurs National Park and Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology – Univ. of Minnesota) captured this nighttime footage near Voyageurs National Park with remote cameras in spring 2018. While wolves are known to hunt spawning salmon in marine coasts, this is one of the only observations of wolves hunting freshwater fish in creek and stream networks of boreal ecosystems like Voyageurs. See our publication “Do wolves hunt freshwater fish in spring as a food source?” (doi.org/10.1016/j.mambio.2018.03.007) for more information & another video. If you want to see more content like this, follow or like our Facebook page!
Posted by Voyageurs Wolf Project on Wednesday, December 12, 2018
The video has racked up over 268,000 views in just two days and change.
The camera caught the wolf taking in at least four fish. This makes our lupine friend more adept at this thing than me; I would sit on Lake Muscanetcong for hours on end and be lucky to catch a small pickerel for my efforts.
While the video was definitive proof that wolves hunt freshwater fish, the same researchers have more or less demonstrated this phenomenon in the past.
A 2017 research paper titled “Do wolves hunt freshwater fish in spring as a food source?” (spoiler alert: yes) documented findings regarding two GPS-collared wolves from the same pack.
The wolves were “responding to a spring fish (northern pike and presumably white suckers) run, which to our knowledge is the first description of wolves outside of a coastal marine environment using fish as a seasonal food source,” the abstract for the paper reads.
“During this period, we opportunistically observed (one of the wolves) hunting and consuming fish along a single creek, and documented a substantial number of wolf-killed fish in this area.”
The researchers estimated that between mid-April and mid-May of last year, the wolves spent between 43 percent and 63 percent of their time fishing at the creek.
“Based on visual observation and the concentration of GPS locations, it appears the wolves targeted shallow, narrow areas along the creek to capture fish,” they note. “Although short-term responses to alternate foods, such as fish, can be infrequent and challenging to document, they provide valuable insight to the flexibility of wolf hunting and foraging behavior.”
With that kind of flexibility, though, why stop there? After all, fishing can be one of the great joys in life. Maybe the pack can get itself a boat and some tackle. Also, can wolves drink beer? There’s nothing like a cold bottle of Yuengling on a still lake at dusk.
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