Moose in wolf diets across northeastern Minnesota

Yvette Chenaux-Ibrahim, Seth A Moore, Steven K Windels, William J Severud, Ron A. Moen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The moose (Alces alces; mooz in Anishinaabemowin, Ojibwe language) population has recently declined in Minnesota, USA, and gray wolf (Canis lupus; ma'iingan) predation is likely a contributing factor. We analyzed diet composition of gray wolves in northeastern Minnesota during 2011–2013 to evaluate the importance of moose as prey and seasonal and regional variations in wolf diet. We identified frequency of occurrence of prey items and biomass consumed in 1,000 wolf scats collected on and adjacent to the Grand Portage Indian Reservation and Voyageurs National Park and within the 1854 Ceded Territory (greater northeastern Minnesota). White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus; waawaashkeshiwag [plural]), moose, and beaver (Castor canadensis; amikwag [plural]) composed the majority of wolf diet, with moose as the primary prey in Grand Portage (35–54% of diet by biomass across seasons) and deer the primary prey in the 1854 Ceded Territory (46–62%) and Voyageurs (63–79%). Relative importance of prey species differed by study area and season. Moose calves were an important prey item in spring in the 1854 Ceded Territory (12% of diet by biomass) but not in Grand Portage or Voyageurs. Although calves were not a majority of wolf diet by biomass, many calves were preyed upon by wolves (30% of calves born each year in Grand Portage), thus affecting recruitment in a declining moose population. Deer fawns composed 12% of wolf diet in spring and 10% in summer in Grand Portage and 19% in summer in Voyageurs. Beaver composed 16% of wolf diet by biomass in spring and 14% in summer in Grand Portage and composed 22% of wolf diet in spring and 30% in summer in Voyageurs. At most prey densities, moose were preferred and deer avoided in Grand Portage and the 1854 Ceded Territory and beaver were preferred in Voyageurs. Our results can be used in conjunction with predation and prey studies to evaluate the effect of wolves on prey populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Wildlife Society.

Keywords

  • Canis lupus
  • diet
  • Grand Portage Indian Reservation
  • gray wolf
  • northeastern Minnesota
  • prey preference
  • scat analysis
  • Voyageurs National Park

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