Wolf behaviour undeterred by tailings ponds and pit mines

August 30, 2017
Two wolves peer into a wildlife camera in Alberta's Athabasca Oil Sands region. Credit: Wildlife Habitat Effectiveness and Connectivity, 2014

Wolves do not avoid areas of human disturbance when hunting moose in Alberta's oil sands region.

New UAlberta research shows that predation rates of moose have increased near areas of high human disturbance, but low human activity, such as tailings ponds and pit mines.

"Wolves are not avoiding these features," explained UAlberta PhD candidate Eric Neilson, who compared the population density of moose to the distribution of wolf-related moose deaths in the region. "In fact, they are using space near mines as they usually would, demonstrating that these spaces are not a deterrent."

If anything, Neilson says these spaces provide effective hunting ground for wolves.

Environmental changes

When habitat is cleared for mining or oil extraction, there are large changes to the landscape that create barriers around which move. A similar effect, Neilson said, is shown around rivers.

"Wolves are coursing predators. This means that they like to move across the landscape to encounter their prey. It could be that the edge of the mine provides a feature similar to rivers that they can move along and around in the same way," he said.

However, the intensification of wolf activity and moose kills near the edges of these mines and tailings ponds is not shown near camps or upgrader sites, likely due to the presence of humans.

Future investigation

"There is a lot more research to be done in this area," said Neilson, adding the impact upon populations is not yet clear. "With any change in habitat that causes changes in animal behaviour, there are many factors to consider and much more we can learn about what is really going on here."

Explore further: An alternative to wolf control to save endangered caribou

More information: Eric W. Neilson et al, Human disturbance alters the predation rate of moose in the Athabasca oil sands, Ecosphere (2017). DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1913

Related Stories

An alternative to wolf control to save endangered caribou

August 29, 2017

What happens when invasive and native species are eaten by the same predator? If the invasive species is abundant, the native species can go extinct because predator numbers are propped up by the invading species. This process ...

Isle Royale wolf decline boosts moose

April 30, 2014

A scientific report says the wolf population of Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior is dangerously low for the third consecutive year, while moose numbers are steadily rising.

Two in the pack: No changes for Isle Royale wolves

April 18, 2017

For the second year in a row, the Isle Royale wolf population remains a mere two. Researchers from Michigan Tech say that as the wolf population stays stagnant, the moose population will continue to grow at a rapid pace. ...

Moose tracking: There's an app for that

April 10, 2017

Ecologists in the University of Alberta's Department of Biological Sciences have developed an app to improve population modeling for moose, asking hunters record the number of moose they see while hunting in Alberta.

Moose multiplying in Scandinavia

April 20, 2008

Biologists say there are now record numbers of moose in Scandinavia -- the greatest population since the Ice Age.

Recommended for you

Typhoid fever toxin has a sweet tooth

December 11, 2017

Although the insidious bacterium Salmonella typhi has been around for centuries, very little is actually known about its molecular mechanisms. A new study from researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine addresses this ...

Researchers develop powerful new method for microbiome analysis

December 11, 2017

Scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Sema4, and collaborating institutions New York University and the University of Florida today published a report detailing their new, more accurate method for identifying ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.