Chasing Brutus -- The North Pole Wolf
Thanks to a satellite collar, two innovative scientists, and a blog, people can follow the travels of Brutus, the ‘North Pole wolf’ as he leads his pack through the long arctic winter.
Listen as wolf researcher David Mech talks about why he and his team put this satellite collar on Brutus and what they hope to learn about these arctic wolves.
Kara Capelli: Welcome to CoreCast. Thanks to a satellite collar, two scientists and a blog, you can now follow the journeys of Brutus, the North Pole wolf.
I’m joined today by David Mech, USGS Wolf Researcher. And he’s tracking Brutus’ journey to the North Pole. Welcome David.
David Mech: Well, thank you Kara. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Kara Capelli: So, David, why are you tracking Brutus?
David Mech: Well, I’m tracking this particular wolf and his pack incidentally - he’s got at least 11 other adult members with him and an unknown number of pups. I’m tracking up by the North Pole because I’ve always wanted to know what those wolves do in an area where it’s 24 hours of darkness from like early October through late February.
I’ve studied them in this area for 25 years, 25 summers, but I’ve never known what they’ve done after I leave which is usually in late July or early August. I have no idea what happens to them after that.
Kara Capelli: How are you tracking these wolves?
David Mech: Well, it’s a special collar. It involves a few computers in it that allow the collar to listen to a whole constellation of GPS satellites and from them to record its position, its location very accurately like to within just a few yards and it records that in the collar twice a day. And then every four days, the collar transmits those data to the Argos satellite system which then emails it to my computer.
Kara Capelli: Well, so what do you hope to find or what do you expect to find?
David Mech: Well, one thing I think is that these wolves are going to start traveling farther than they have been during the summer. We’ve got data now starting from July 9th when we put that collar on up until just a few days ago now.
We have 145 locations on this pack and we have a pretty good idea of, or we know where they were during that time. But as the pups grow older, they’ll become more mobile and the adults won’t have to catch food and bring it back to the pups, but rather the pups will travel along with the adults. That means the adults can go pretty much anywhere they want. They don’t have to go only so far and then return to the den where the pups are. They can just keep traveling.
The other reason that I think they will probably travel farther than they have already is because they’ve already killed a number of the musk oxen and ferrets in the area they’re living in and that means there’s going to be fewer and fewer until next spring when they reproduce again.
So, in order to find the amount of food they need, I think these wolves are going to have to travel farther. And then third, the fjords that bound the area where the wolves lived during the summer will start freezing over shortly and then that will allow the wolves to perhaps go to some nearby parts of this island, which incidentally is called Ellesmere Island. It’s up by Greenland and it’s far northern Canada.
Kara Capelli: Does this research that you’re doing on the North Pole wolf have any management implications?
David Mech: Not any direct management implications but rather it adds to the basic store of knowledge that we have about wolves. And in that respect, it help builds that pyramid of knowledge where some of the information one gets helps others learn other kinds of information and when you put it all together, you have a more complete picture of what this animal is and having a more complete picture is always better when you’re trying to manage a creature.
Kara Capelli: And David, what’s the best way for our listeners to track Brutus’ journey?
David Mech: Well Kara, it turns out we have been contributing to a blog, actually from the very beginning of the project that tells how we put the collar on the wolf and a great deal of background information. And periodically as we get more and more data, we give information about what we’re learning. So, if you’re interested in finding out what this wolf and his pack does over the winter, just go to the blog.
Kara Capelli: Well David, thank you very much for joining us today.
David Mech: Well, thank you Kara. I enjoy talking to you.
Kara Capelli: And like David said, you can track Brutus too, just go to internationalwolfcenter.blogspot.com.
CoreCast is a product of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior. Thanks for listening.