I never thought I would be saying this…but…I wish the wolves would just go away for a while! There’s too many of them all at once all the time. We’re supposed to be figuring out how many wolves are in our study area, and finding their kills; both of these are priorities for the study, but neither of which we are doing effectively. Two people alone cannot determine this due to the massive influx of wolves we have every week. It seems that every day we are picking up signals from at least three different packs in various parts of the study area. To determine wolf numbers and to find kills, we have to hike in on any tracks and our triangulations (which I will describe in more detail in another post) obtained via radio telemetry.
There are 17 collared wolves that we monitor daily for presence or absence in the study area…but these collared wolves represent only a few individuals of the entire pack; thus we have approximately 45 wolves that could potentially be in our study area that we need to document. Add to this list all the uncollared, unknown packs that wander in on occasion. Our two person team simply does not have the time to determine how many wolves there are at any given time. So, every morning we hope that some of the wolves skedaddle.
We also have another wish…this one a little more mean. With all the wolves moping around, there are lots of other large mammals (namely elk and bison) that are becoming victuals for all the hungry mouths. Because we do random elk group compositions, we randomly chose the one and only collared elk in the Old Faithful area to perform the next observation on…and although we hear her signal from everywhere in the Old Faithful area, we can’t find her, which stalls our study objectives and is just plain frustrating (especially after several attempts at hiking to find her). In a small way, we kind of hope that she would be the next wolf victim. Of course, I don’t really wish death upon her just to make our research go smoother…but you know.
Funny how elk and wolves are my life now…hardly any break from it…it’s all I ever do! And they will be for the next five months. At least I’m not dreaming about them in my sleep too.