September 3, 2008

Wolves Prefer Salmon Fishing Over Deer Hunting

Scientists have learned that wolves in British Canada would rather fish for salmon than hunt for deer.

Through studying prey remains found in wolf droppings, Chris Darimont from the University of Victoria and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Canada, and his team found that although wolves tend to feed on deer throughout the year, they prefer to eat salmon when it becomes available.

"One might expect that wolves would move onto salmon only if their mainstay deer were in short supply. Our data show that this is not the case, salmon availability clearly outperformed deer availability in predicting wolves' use of salmon," the authors said.

They found that during autumn, when Pacific salmon return, the wolves change their culinary preference to the more nutritious fish.

"Salmon continue to surprise us," said co-author Thomas Reimchen, also of the University of Victoria, "showing us new ways in which their oceanic migrations eventually permeate entire terrestrial ecosystems. In terms of providing food and nutrients to a whole food web, we like to think of them as North America's answer to the Serengeti's wildebeest."

Scientists say that wolves prefer to fish for a meal rather than track deer on land for reasons including safety, nutrition and energetics.

"Selecting benign prey such as salmon makes sense from a safety point of view," wrote Dr Chris Darimont, from the University of Victoria, BC, and his colleagues in the journal BMC Ecology.

"While hunting deer, wolves commonly incur serious and often fatal injuries," the researchers said, adding that salmon fishing is much less time consuming than tracking deer in the forest.

"In addition to safety benefits, we determined that salmon also provides enhanced nutrition over deer, especially in fat and energy."


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