UAA's Ashley Stanek presents on wolf eating habits

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

UAA graduate student Ashley Stanek's (Biology Dept.) research on wolf eating habits, using isotope forensics, was featured in Ned Rozell's science article in the Jan. 23 edition of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. This research is lead by ENRI Director Jeff Welker and is part of a ENRI-NPS-USFWS collaboration that has been underway for over a year.

Below is an excerpt from the article featuring Stanek's research:

Southwest Alaska wolves are not just eating moose and caribou

A few years ago, biologists in Southeast Alaska reported that good portions of wolf diets in the region included salmon, which surprised some people who thought that wolves ate almost nothing except red meat. In San Francisco, University of Alaska Anchorage graduate student Ashley Stanek presented a poster on her studies of wolves farther north, near Lake Clark and the Alaska Peninsula. She has looked at guard hairs and blood samples of wolves from four packs in the area. Biologists capture the radio-collared wolves to take the samples, which Stanek and others analyze using stable isotope analysis. "The collars tell us where they are," said Stanek. "The isotopes tell us what they are eating." Her early results show that two wolf packs with territories centered on thriving salmon streams and rivers show more ocean-derived foods (probably salmon) in their diets than those that wander farther from waterways. As for wolves choosing to eat salmon, Stanek said it makes sense to her. "It's an easy resource, it's high in protein, and high in fat."

Bears are eating just about everything. During a 10-year period, brown bears in southwest Alaska had a diet that averaged about 39 percent salmon, 25 percent berries, 14 percent mammals and about 9 percent of both freshwater fish and vegetation, according to Craig Stricker, a United States Geological Survey biologist who works in Denver. Stricker teamed with Alaska biologists to examine information from guard hairs (which grow during the summer after a bear emerges from hibernation) of brown bears from the Kuskokwim Mountains. "Bears respond to what's available," Stricker said in San Francisco. "(Results) show less salmon eaten during the salmon crash beginning in 1997 to 2000, and they suggest that bears are creatures of habit -- that there's salmon-eating bears and vegetation-eating bears."

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