Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
YUKON FLATS: Recent Study Estimates Wolf Population
Alaska Region, December 11, 2012
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Yukon Flats collared wolf.
Yukon Flats collared wolf. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Territories of 5 wolf packs studied on the Yukon Flats, Alaska.
Territories of 5 wolf packs studied on the Yukon Flats, Alaska. - Photo Credit: USFWS

Results from a recent wolf collaring study indicate that the wolf population on the Yukon Flats is between 158 and 167 resident, territorial wolves. This population size was determined by collaring wolves with Global Positioning System (GPS) transmitters that recorded their GPS locations and uplinked results to satellites. Over the course of a year, 6,527 GPS locations were collected from wolves in 5 packs. The total area occupied by 25 wolves in these 5 packs was 2,614 square miles, or a density of slightly less than 10 wolves per 1,000 square miles. This was then applied to the 17,464 square miles of the Yukon Flats to estimate the overall population size. Of particular interest was that average wolf territory size was about 531 square miles (23x23 miles), placing territory size of Yukon Flats wolves among the largest in North America. To put things in perspective, wolves on the Yukon Flats had territories larger than the city of Los Angeles, which covers an area less than 500 square miles. Such large wolf territories were a response to moose being the sole prey and occurring at low densities. Wolves had to maintain large territories to ensure an adequate supply of vulnerable moose. Understanding the wolf population is useful to management of the Yukon Flats, and this management relevance is summarized in a recent paper that will be submitted at a future date to a peer-reviewed journal.

Contact Info: Bryce Lake, 907-456-0503, Bryce_Lake@fws.gov
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