Sunday, October 17, 2010

A day with the wolf pack

I am on a Raw Feeding Yahoo group and Beth Hostetter was nice enough to allow me to share her AWESOME experience with you!

"I am spending the day at the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN. Below are the answers to the questions I rec'd before I went.  I am going back for feeding the pack this evening, so private email me any other questions (I can pick up from my phone on the run)

They feed whole prey to the pack.  Typically white tail deer and beaver.  The natural diet for wild wolves in this area is 60% deer, the rest beaver, moose, and small mammals.  Nearer the Rockies the natural prey is more elk.

They feed the pack in a group. The alpha male and female feed first and subordiinates feed in dominance order.  The large prey is proportioned by the pack.  Different parts of the animal are eaten by different wolves over time.

They do NOT eat the stomach contents. They shake it out and eat the stomach lining.  The wolves can eat all parts except the stomach contents, but often will not eat the vertabrate or skull (but will eat the jaw bone).  They can eat them, but they are more difficult to eat, so they will pick clean and might bury/cache for future in case of extreme hunger

They feed the pack as they eat in the wild gorge/feast- once per week.  They might supplement with addtitional small feedings if the staff deems necessary. They determine this by watching their scat daily.  The scat is usually hair and some bone. (Yep, they watch the poo too!)

The staff freezes the meat for 2 weeks prior to feeding to kill parasites.  Most the deer is road kill that they gather.  The DNR pays trappers to bring in beavers and the DNR gets rid of them by donating them to the Wolf Center.  They said check wtih your locall DNR to see if they have collected carcasses they want to get rid of.  Many are thrilled to have someone else dispose of it.

There is an area in British Columbia where the wolves fish, a habit they think was learned from observing the bear in the area. It would be rare for others to fish, but as opportunistic animals - they will eat fish.

Wolves are only successful in making a kill 15% of the time, so on average a wolf will hunt and monitor their territory 30 miles a day,  days a week.

The strongest dog breed jaw strengths (like pit bulls, GSD, etc) have a jaw strength of 600#/inch pressure.  A wild wolf's is 1500#/inch.  An adult wolf can sheer a moose femur in -10 bites.  The staff I talked to raw feeds her dog and doesn't feed the leg bones of the animals because the domesticated animals jaw strength isn't there.

Wolves are very efficient at digestion and convert 95% of eaten food into energy. Only undigested is hair and a little bone.

Finished with the Feeding of the pack tonight.

Chris, you are correct, the correct term is breeding adults or dominant male or female.  The dominant males and females discourage breeding of younger wolves in the pack, as they are usually related such as younger wolves from the breeding pair.  The dominant wolves lead the hunt and usually select the prey in the herd, the wolves then work in relay the running, and wearing down the prey, usually by tiring it and making it weaken by bleeding.  The speaker said she was not aware of them having differnt managers for different prey, but might use more experienced hunters for more challenging or dangerous prey, such as moose.

This pack just "retired" their dominant male due to arthritis.  (Moved to a non-public viewed site) There is a dominant female who currently runs the pack.  Her name is Maya and she is 6. Her brother, Grizzer, is a loosely dominant male, but not doing his job,so he is getting challenged by Denali- a 2 year old male just reaching adulthood.  Grizzer has not submitted, but likely will have to raise to the challenge or step down soon. The smallest is Aidan, the lowest ranking male.

Tonight's dinner was beaver.  6 beaver and a rib cage of deer were brougt in.  Maya and Grizzer ate the beaver tails first.  The tails are primarily fat and considered the best prize.  While they were eating, Denali snuck out some of the deer ribs. Aidan sniffed around, but didn't touch anything for a long time.  Maya marked several of the beavers.  The funniest thing was that Aidan finally stole a small piece of deer rib- about the size of a chicken leg.  Maya came over and he dropped it.  She stood over the piece and marked it then walked away.

We watched for 1.5 hours  during that time Maya and Grizzer dragged away beaver and were eating in the distance.  Denali stole a beaver and was eating it in the distance.  Aidan was the only wolf left in the food area, and he just sat next to his peed on piece of meat and didn't eat anything.  The staff said that Aidan usually would not eat until the next day when he was allowed to eat.  Even if Maya chose not to eat for hours, he wouldn't eat. All the other wolves were at least 50 yards away and he didn't touch anything.

They ate slower and less frantic than I expected.  They weigh between 60 and 100 lbs and each will eat about 20# of meat tonight.  They will sleep most of the next 2-3 days.

We did see one wolf up close tear open the belly after the tail was gone and pull out and eat the guts.  One organ was pulled out and left alone.  It looked greenish so we suspect it was the stomach.

I asked about the deer and chronic wasting disease- there is a fair amount around here.  They said it doesn't affect the wolves, so not a concern.

Laura, I got your email after the feeding, so I didn't get to ask about eating apples and berries.  They did say that they are opportunistic, so perhaps that has something to do with it."

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