Tracking wolves a tougher task without snow

Apr 8, 2015

Wildlife biologists say the lack of snow this spring makes bears and wolves more difficult to find.

Credit National Park Service

Area biologists say it’s been a difficult spring to conduct surveys of bear and wolf populations. KDLG’s Matt Martin reports:

 Audio transcript: 

Pat Walsh is the Supervisory Fish and Wildlife Biologist at the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. He says the difficulty comes from little snow in the refuge.

We normally use snow to track wolves, and that allows us to catch them more easily. But this year we had no snow, so basically we're searching for a needle in a haystack.  

Walsh says late March is usually the best time to do this type of work. Typically, it’s easy to follow tracks in the snow. But no snow, no tracks. The team did end up collaring 4 wolves from two different packs. Walsh would have preferred to find and tag more of them.

Counting predators like bear and wolves is important to gauge their effects on the area moose population, which is always of concern to hunters and subsistence users.

Walsh and the other biologists may try again in the fall or put the expensive aerial effort on hold to next spring, hoping for more snow:

We've gone through two very poor snow years in a row, though, so really we need to learn how to do this kind of work without snow, because we may be facing the same thing down the line. 

Getting any animals tagged usually helps. Walsh says those animals typically lead future surveys towards others. 

Contact the author at matt@kdlg.org.