Leaping Greenly Spirits of Wolves

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i thank You God for this most amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes (e.e. cummings)

Algonquin Wolf Tracks

On Saturday, February 10th, the temperature in Algonquin Park reached 10 °C, unseasonably warm. Ice persisted on Sasajewun Lake and dense snowpack blanketed the forest. The snow was soft underfoot and snowshoes were not needed. A chorus of Pine Siskin spring song was constant throughout the day. White-winged and Red Crossbills also added to the orchestra of birdsong. We tracked under a blue sky at times, marvelling at the beauty of the Algonquin forest in midwinter.

Only metres from the Wildlife Research Station were five wolf trails heading west into the forest. What a great opportunity to learn more about and celebrate the Algonquin wolf! The Algonquin or Eastern Wolf (Canis Lycaon) is a threatened species in Ontario. Algonquin Wolves are a hybrid species between the Grey Wolf, Eastern Red Wolf and the Eastern Coyote. The male wolves can weigh up to 65 pounds and females can weigh up to 50 pounds.

Bounding Gait, Algonquin Wolf

As we followed the trails of these magnificent wolves, we noticed that they were using high energy gaits. This was bizarre. Normally wild animals practice energy conservation in winter months. The trails were more than 12 hours old so we were not a variable affecting their choice of gait. The tracks of these wolves showed that they were loping, bounding, galloping and even stretch galloping!

Wolf Wonder

Perhaps the wolves were circling a feeding site and using trails leading to and away from a carcass? One of the wolf trails included a couple of moose hairs, leading us to interpret that the wolf had been feeding earlier on in its travels. Alexis shared that sometimes wolves “burn off excess energy” after feeding by using high energy gaits in the periphery of a feeding area. We searched for a feeding site and could not find one. We did not observe any wolf scat either which would also be expected.

(Stretch) Loping Gait, Algonquin Wolf

Perhaps the wolves were hunting? Their trails followed a moose trail at the beginning of the day and crossed a snowshoe hare trail in the afternoon but there were no other signs of hunting or at least successful hunting.

Frenetic Energy (a.k.a “Joy”)

Stretch Gallop, Algonquin Wolf

In an open area at the edge of the forest, heading downhill, one of the wolves used a stretch gallop. The stretch gallop measured an incredible 2 metres in length! This gait radiated sheer joy. I have seen this playful behaviour before with coyotes leaping and bounding over snow drifts. My colleague describes this as “frenetic spring energy” often observed in animals at this time of year – a time of courtship, mating and yes, joy.

This seems like the most plausible answer. Perhaps you have some insight into why the wolves used such high energy gaits while traveling in deep snow over many kilometres of trail. Send us a reply 😊

February 10th Story of the Day (Happy birthday Alexis!)

  • ALASTAIR Strachan

    Thanks Tamara – it was a great day and you captured the spirit of it.


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