Black-Tailed Deer, Columbian (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) Tynan Phillips Photography

Black-Tailed Deer, Columbian (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus)


Summer diet of California’s recolonizing gray wolves. DELLINGER, J.A., LAUDON, K. and FIGURA, P., California Fish and Wildlife 107(3):140-146; 2021


After an estimated 87-year absence (circa 1924–2011), gray wolves ( Canis lupus) have begun to recolonize California (Grinnell et al. 1937; Kovacs et al. 2016). Prior to European colonization, gray wolves are thought to have subsisted on native prey including mule deer ( Odocoileus hemionus) and elk ( Cervus elaphus; Grinnell et al. 1937). Due to concerns about the potential effects of gray wolves on both native ungulates and livestock, our objective was to assess the diet of California gray wolves (CDFW; Kovacs et al. 2016). Gray wolves generally use prey species in accordance with their availability (Nowak et al. 2011; Meriggi et al. 2015). For example, native ungulates are more abundant in North
America than in Europe and Asia, and gray wolves in North America rely primarily on native ungulates while gray wolves in Europe and Asia rely more on domestic animals (Torres et al. 2015; Newsome et al. 2016; Janeiro-Otero et al. 2020). As there are lower densities of native ungulates in California than other areas of North America where gray wolves exist (CDFW 2018; Furnas et al. 2018), gray wolves in California may use relatively more alternative prey such as beavers ( Castor canadensis), rabbits ( Sylvilagus spp. and Lepus spp.), and livestock. While it will require additional work to thoroughly describe the diet of wolves in California, our approach and analyses to date offer a framework for future study and helping wildlife managers better understand aspects (e.g., diet composition and scavenging behavior) of wolf diet in California.

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