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Park camera gives peek into wolf-pack life

Handout
A pack of 11 wolves was captured on camera on a trail in Riding Mountain National Park last month. The park posted the image on its Facebook page.

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Handout A pack of 11 wolves was captured on camera on a trail in Riding Mountain National Park last month. The park posted the image on its Facebook page.

GIVEN how tough it is to convince 11 kids to sit for a group photo, imagine trying to get 11 wolves to sit still.

A wildlife camera in Riding Mountain National Park managed to pull off this trick in January, when what appears to be an entire wolf pack -- 11 of the wild canines -- was captured within a single frame.

The black-and-white photo was triggered automatically along a trail in an undisclosed portion of the western Manitoba park, external-relations manager Roger Schroeder said.

The shot has made the social-media rounds since the park posted on Facebook.

"We're just delighted with the response," Schroeder said. "For us, it's all part of the discussion we want to have about the (ecological) role of wolf populations."

The park estimates 113 wolves reside within its boundaries, which amounts to Riding Mountain's largest wolf population since 1975. Wolf packs typically range in size from two to 10 animals, with six being the average size. Packs of 11 wolves are unusual but not unprecedented.

A 2004 study says Riding Mountain's wolves rely on elk for two-thirds of their diet. Moose make up another quarter of the wolves' meals, while beavers, white-tailed deer and hares account for the rest.

Wolves are not, however, responsible for a decline in elk numbers within the park. In response to the presence of bovine tuberculosis among the elk herd, the park has facilitated more elk hunting outside its borders.

bartley.Kives@freepress.mb.ca

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