Wolves: Berry Picky Eaters

by Jenna Holakovsky

Former Wolf Park intern Tom Gable is the current lead researcher for the Voyageurs Wolf Project, a project that has released new discoveries left and right since the start.

One of these discoveries includes a deeper look at wolves’ diets. The former belief was that wolves were solely obligate carnivores. However, new evidence is pointing elsewhere thanks to the Voyageurs Wolf Project.

An obligate carnivore is an animal that survives solely on a diet of meat because they do not possess the physical ability to digest plant matter, but there is a second type of carnivore: facultative carnivore.

In the project’s newest research publication “Berry Important? Wolf Provisions Pups with Berries in Northern Minnesota“, wolves are recorded not only consuming and digesting blueberries, but provisioning regurgitated blueberries to their pups.

Regurgitated berries recorded by Voyageurs Wolf Project.

This new evidence, caught on camera for the first time, gives further support to the shift in scientific understanding of carnivores, specifically wolves. At Wolf Park, we currently refer to wolves as facultative carnivores on the basis of our observations regarding their diets and through scientific research such as this project’s. The concept of the wolf as a facultative carnivore is just emerging.

Footage from Voyageurs Wolf Project shows wolves foraging for berries.

This foraging has been recorded at night as well. The consumption of blueberries adds to both pups’ and adults’ nutritional intake.

 

‘Facultative carnivore’ is a term that refers to an animal who survives on a diet including plant-matter. Survive, however, does not mean thrive. For a wolf to truly thrive, they require animal meat. Wolves may also be considered hypercarnivorous, meaning their diet consists of roughly 90% meat when thriving.

Animals that are hypercarnivorous are considered obligate carnivores in some cases but are truly defined as nearly being exclusive in an all-meat diet. Obligate carnivores include most cats, sharks, raptors, crocodilians, spiders, and pinnipeds. With the Voyageurs Wolf Project’s research, we get further insight into how wolves survive with the resources available to them.

 

If you find this interesting and would like to support the Voyageurs Wolf Project, give their social media pages a like or follow and consider donating here: www.voyageurswolfproject.org/donate. You can also support and rep the project through their merch available here: teespring.com/voyageurs-wolf-project.

 

The project’s expenses vary. For example, the cost to keep one remote video camera in the field for a year is $250. These cameras are what allow us to see the video you see here today.

Pack territories in 2015 as recorded by Voyageurs Wolf Project with radio collars.

Pack territory shifts were seen in 3 years’ time thanks to radio collars.

The radio collars that have provided invaluable data on wolf movement in the Voyageurs National Park cost $2,500 per collar. This data has been shared on the Voyageurs Wolf Project’s Facebook page with very clear territories that wolf packs and individuals create. This, too, would not be possible without public financial support for the project.

Here at Wolf Park, we support the efforts made by Tom Gable and his team through the Voyageurs Wolf Project and the research they are conducting. We are happy to announce that some of the project’s work is featured in our next newsletter exclusive to members and sponsors, written by Tom Gable himself. If you are interested in memberships or sponsorships, visit here.

We look forward to sharing more as the project continues to study Voyageurs’ wolves.

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