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Tamarac Refuge: Come view wildlife caring for babies

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Summer is a wonderful time to celebrate being with family and friends by observing the wild families found in nature.

Look for deer fawns hiding behind their mothers, bear cubs exploring their new world and eaglets demanding to be fed.

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Experience the vibrant colors and fragrances of summer woodland wildflowers including the Canada anemone, Joe Pye weed, and wild geraniums.

Listen for songbirds as they settle in for the summer season. See you on the refuge where the blacktop ends and the backwoods begin.

Wildlife watching

Here at Tamarac, wildlife is left undisturbed as they care for their young.  Portions of the refuge are closed to the public during this crucial time, but many viewing opportunities still exist. The most optimum times for viewing wildlife occur around sunrise and sunset. But sometimes even an afternoon visit can be rewarding to the quiet, watchful observer.

To increase your chances of seeing wildlife, explore the edges of lakes, marshes and meadows the five-mile Blackbird Wildlife Drive. If you feel inclined to exercise, hike the two-mile long Old Indian Hiking Trail and experience the beauty of the maple basswood forest.  Another option is to venture out on the new North Country Trail which traverses 14 miles through the southern half of the refuge.

Fishing

Try your luck in one of our five lakes open to fishing.  There are many varieties of fish to be caught including crappie, walleye, sunfish, northern pike and bass. A fishing map and regulations can be obtained at the refuge information kiosks.

Wolves and their territories

How far would you travel for a meal? If you are a wolf, you may travel up to 50 miles in search of food on any given day.

Wolves tend to travel at a constant speed of 5 mph but can reach nearly 40 mph. An average pack of wolves range in size from 4 to 9 animals, but may be as small as 2 and as large as 15. By 3 years of age, a wolf has chosen to stay with their pack or to disperse. When a wolf leaves, they are often in search of new territory, which can be used to form a pack or find a mate. Wolves typically mate for life.

The size of wolf territories varies with the seasons. Some contributing factors are prey abundance, type of habitat, climate, and disease.

Since food is more abundant in the summer, pack territories tend to be smaller than those in the winter. Territories usually range from 50 to over 1,000 square miles. Packs in the lower 48 states tend to be less than 100 square miles, while packs in Alaska and Canada have territories that range from 300 to 1,000 square miles or more.

The smallest territory ever recorded was 13 square miles in NE Minnesota, while the largest was 2,422 square miles in Alaska.

Territories are an integral part of a current wolf study at Tamarac NWR.  There are two packs with territories that include parts of the refuge. Three wolves have been fitted with research collars in the past couple of years.

The first attempt at tracking wolves on Tamarac was with radio collars, but the forests made tracking difficult. On the refuge, the wolf could only be tracked within 1 to 1.5 miles. This proved ineffective when the two submissive wolves moved out of the Tamarac area. One was located near Bagley, where it was shot near the end of the hunting season. The other is still traveling in a region north of Park Rapids.

Satellite tracking is more efficient than radio collars. It allows a researcher to track a wolf over greater distances and all the data on the wolf’s movements is sent directly to the biologist.  It is also more cost and fuel efficient than radio collars. The alpha male in the northern pack was collared with a satellite GPS collar.

He has one of the largest ranges in the 48 continental states and his range encompasses over 300 square miles. This is as large as the territories of wolves in Canada and Alaska. The collar tracked this alpha male until it came off due to a time-release mechanism on April 26. The last data received indicated he was on his way back towards Tamarac NWR from Crookston.

The goal of tracking wolves at Tamarac is to determine pack size and basic life history. It is also to learn how they interact in western Minnesota, since it is the edge of their range. In doing so, researchers hope to learn more about the wolves so that they continue to be a part of the natural ecosystem for generations to come. - Rachel Post

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