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 It’s Time to Act for Right Whales Years after they agreed to expand critical habitat for endangered North Atlantic right whales, we’re still waiting on NMFS to follow through. So we took to the courts to get this much-needed protection in place. How Should We Honor Earth Day? America has many worldwide firsts in conservation: we were the first nation to establish a national park, the first to create a national wildlife refuge, the first to approve a law protecting endangered species and the first to create a national day dedicated to conservation, Earth Day. But today, we are experiencing another period of crisis in America’s commitment to conservation. When did conservation become a polarizing political issue, when it has been, for the past century, a defining characteristic of American values and the American spirit? Ecological Insults and Injuries Revealed Four Years after Deepwater Horizon Four years after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, we’re beginning to see the full scope of how this ecological disaster is impacting our wildlife on land, air and sea.