Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lots of timber wolves already

My trail cameras have already gotten a bunch of photos of timber wolves here at our home in Nolalu. That's unusual as we don't typically see wolves until mid-winter. The cameras also have captured plenty of whitetail deer too and that, of course, is the big draw for the wolves.
Nolalu is about 300 miles southeast of Red Lake and is near Thunder Bay on the north side of Lake Superior.
At our tourism summit conference in November camp operators were talking about the huge packs of wolves they have witnessed. Some have seen packs of up to 50. Those are incredible numbers. My cameras have only gotten up to three wolves in a group and that is more natural -- packs of three to five.
The best guess on the extraordinary groups is that they are actually many packs that have foregone their usual territorial instincts due to the extra-high numbers of deer.
In normal circumstances, pickings are few and a pack of five wolves will drive away any other wolves from its territory.
We all expected deer numbers to plummet after last winter's deep snowfall but whitetails are incredibly resilient. It will probably take successive deep snow winters to lower the herd.
Meanwhile, the deer are spreading a parasite that is harmless to them but fatal to moose. The meningeal brain worm has wreaked havoc with moose in Minnesota and Northwestern Ontario. In fact it has just about wiped them out from the U.S. border all the way to the south end of Red Lake Road. Lots of deer there now but few moose.
Fortunately, in Red Lake deer are still a rarity. It is one of the last areas with a healthy moose population.
Climate change is mostly the reason for the deer influx. The northern Ontario winters used to be too harsh for deer. Only the long-legged moose could make it through. That's just not the case these days.

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