Diet of wolverines (Gulo gulo) in the western Brooks Range, Alaska
AbstractMigratory caribou herds are an important component of the North American tundra. We investigated the wolverine (Gulo gulo) diet in the migratory range of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd in north-western Alaska. Within this area, caribou are absent or occur at low densities for large parts of the year, and thus show a strong seasonality in abundance. Analyses of stomach and colon contents suggested that wolverines primarily consumed caribou during the winter, and that the dietary dependence was related more to caribou mortality than to caribou abundance in the area. We also found indications that wolverines may switch between moose and caribou during periods of low caribou abundance, but that such a switch did not affect wolverine body condition. Our results thus support previous observations that wolverines primarily consume ungulates. However, a better knowledge of how alternative food sources are utilized will be necessary to predict the dietary and demographic responses of wolverines to variations in caribou abundance. We also suggest that further efforts should be made to investigate the effects of other ungulate-dependent predators on wolverine feeding ecology, because such predators may function both as competitors and as suppliers of carrion for scavenging.
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