ANCHORAGE - Researchers at UAA are wrapping up a study on wolves at the Alaska Zoo that they hope will have implications for how to manage wolves in the wild.
For the last three months, the zoo wolves have been fed a consistent diet of salmon. Scientists have been taking blood draws on a regular basis and looking for isotopic markers that can show exactly what the wolves are eating.
Ashley Stanek, a UAA graduate student in biology, said the baseline data gathered from the captive wolves can be used to study wild wolves and their diets as well.
“You need to know what they are eating because that is one of their main roles in the ecosystem, and so people anywhere who are interested in what the wolves are feeding on in their wild habitats could potentially use this information.”
Stanek says the ultimate hope is to use the research to make game management decisions.
Meantime, the zoo wolves are proving to be excellent research subjects. About half of the six require sedation for the frequent blood draws required in the study but the other three do not. Zoo vet Riley Wilson says it’s because the wolves have been handled by humans since they arrived at the zoo at just two weeks old.
“The reason to do that is so we could handle them as they became older,“ says Wilson. “You know they are still wild wolves, tough animals, but there's a comfort zone there that they feel comfortable with the ones that have been handling them a lot and we can do it in a really relaxed manner without stressing them out.”
Researchers took their last blood draws on Wednesday and now have some lab work ahead. They hope to have some results that can be useful for both captive and wild wolves within the next few weeks.