How on earth do wolves actually ambush beavers?


Beavers are important prey for wolves throughout the boreal ecosystem…but how on earth do wolves catch these semi-aquatic rodents that spend very little time on land? People have assumed that beavers must be easy prey for wolves to kill but that is almost certainly not true.

For the past 5 years, the Voyageurs Wolf Project (VWP) has been studying how wolves actually hunt and kill beavers. The VWP quickly learned in 2015 that wolves mainly hunt beavers by ambushing them. But that was only the beginning of the story, the tip of the iceberg! Since 2015, the VWP has meticulously documented >750 instances of where wolves have waited to ambush beavers and >240 instances where wolves successfully killed beavers. This has revealed unprecedented insight about how, where, and when wolves choose to ambush beavers, and how beavers avoid fatal encounters with wolves!

On February 26, 2020 the Wolf Conservation Center hosted Tom Gable, PhD candidate, for a discussion about the hunting patterns of Minnesota's wolves.

About The Speaker:

Tom Gable is the project lead for the Voyageurs Wolf Project and a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota. He has been studying wolves in the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem since 2014 when he started his Master's at Northern Michigan University. Gable is particularly fascinated by wolf-beaver interactions and much of his graduate work to date has focused on understanding how wolves hunt and kill beavers, and conversely how beavers avoid fatal encounters with wolves. Much of Gable's early interest in wolves stemmed from encountering wolf tracks, kills, and the occasional wolf while exploring the wild places around his family's cabin just outside of Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario during the winter. During and after his Bachelor's in Biology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, Gable worked as a wolf research technician in Grand Teton National Park and on the Minnesota Wolf and Deer Project in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). His time in the BWCAW fostered a deep appreciation and love for the iconic Northwoods of Minnesota.

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