17 October 2012 Caching In On Leftovers Posted by: John Motsinger | Leave a comment | Share: For Wolf Awareness Week 2012, we’re sharing some of our favorite facts about wolves. Help us spread the word by sharing the image below on Facebook. Wolves are capable of consuming an incredible amount of meat—up to 20 pounds in a single sitting—and sometimes they do. But they don’t always clean their plate, so to speak. Much of the time, wolves will save some for later by “caching” part of their bounty in case food becomes scarce. According to the Wolf Education & Research Center, wolves will cache as little as a single piece up to 15 pounds of meat from any given meal by burying it in the dirt. Doing so prevents ravens and other scavengers from stealing the surplus so that wolves can return and feed on it later. Wolves hunt two bull elk in Yellowstone. Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service. Wolves are known for their skilled hunting of larger prey, but they’re also opportunistic scavengers. It takes a lot less effort for a wolf to feast on the cached remains of a dead animal than it does to try to take down a live one that’s five to ten times its size. Further, food is often scarce during certain times of the year and in certain places, so it pays to keep a stash hidden for those lean times. If you’ve ever seen a dog burying a bone in the backyard, they’re following the same instinctual behavior from their canid ancestors, the wolves. Because of their incredible sense of smell, wolves can easily detect old meat that’s been buried in order to locate their food caches. Unfortunately, this behavior can also get them into trouble. Livestock producers will often maintain open carcass pits of animals that die from a variety of causes—bad weather, disease, birthing complications, fatal injuries—and these pits can attract wolves from miles away. Some pits are fenced off or buried deep underground, but many of them are not protected at all. Once a wolf gets wind of an open carcass pit, they will often return again and again, treating it as their own personal food cache. As a result, ranchers greatly increase the likelihood that wolves will eventually come into conflict with any other livestock using the area. One of the most important wolf coexistence strategies Defenders employs is helping ranchers identify major attractants like carcass pits and cleaning them up. By properly disposing of dead animals off-site or burying them deeper underground, ranchers can greatly reduce the chances of wolves becoming routine visitors to their livestock operation. These actions have been critically important in the Northern Rockies and adjacent states like Oregon and California where wolves have only recently returned. We’ve been able to help ranchers avoid disaster by cleaning up old carcass pits before wolves discover them, increasing the odds that wolves can share the landscape with livestock without turning them into dinner. Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in Wolf Weekly Wrap-Up Helicopter gunning kills 23 wolves in Idaho; Urge Secretary Jewell to abandon gray wolf delisting proposal — Call your representative by March 14; Washington wildlife agency urged to end support for abolishing federal wolf protections; The latest on Governor Otter’s wolf control board. Two Too Many Development Projects in the Ivanpah Valley While these projects most definitely directly impact a species that has been identified as threatened and is dependent on the habitat where they would be built, Silver State South and Stateline’s approval is most troubling for a bigger reason. You see, this isn’t just an issue for the Ivanpah Valley. Developers and agencies need to be conscious of how and where they plan energy projects all across the country. They need to look at renewable energy planning with a landscape-wide lens, understanding that building in the right places and making an effort to minimize environmental impacts from the start are essential. California’s Rim Fire: Opportunities Rise from the Ashes After California’s devastating Rim Fire, will officials take the opportunity to give nature a chance to fully recover?