In July the scientists, one from the United States, the other from Canada, put the satellite collar on Brutus, the leader of his wolf pack, on remote Ellesmere Island, only 600 miles from the North Pole. Their goal to finally find out what these "North Pole wolves" do in the long, dark days of winter in one of the harshest areas of the world.
"We first encountered 9-year-old Brutus back in 2003," said David Mech, a renowned U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) wolf researcher who has been studying the Ellesmere Island wolves for the last 24 years. That is, he's followed them during summer, which is pretty much the month of July. Snow begins falling in August, and except for June, that fleeting month of arctic spring, at most other times it is nearly impossible for people to travel to the island or withstand the cold temperatures.
"This year, we made a huge technological jump from notebook and pens to satellite collars because we wanted to find out what these arctic wolves do in winter in areas when it is dark 24 hours a day and temperatures can fall to -70 degrees Fahrenheit," Mech said. "How far must they travel to obtain enough food to make it to the Arctic spring, which doesn't happen until the next June?"
If the high-tech collars can withstand these temperatures, Mech and his colleague, Canadian researcher Dean Cluff, can sit in total comfort in their offices far to the south and find out via emails from Brutus. As Mech admits, it's quite a difference from the harsh and often-sleepless conditions the researchers are used to in the field.
When Mech first visited Ellesmere Island in 1986, he found that the wolves there were tame because of few to no interactions with people. Since then, the wolf researcher has taken advantage of this unusual research opportunity to uncover facets of wolf behavior and ecology that can't be learned anywhere else.
This information supplements his other wolf research during the rest of the year in areas like M
|Contact: Catherine Puckett|
United States Geological Survey