Wolves ate most of the deer on an Alaskan Island. Soon after than they began eating sea otters.

Eating sea otters has become the primary food source for more wolves on an Alaskan island, marking the first recorded case of this type of predator-prey interaction. Scientists from Oregon State University and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game made the discovery by using GPS collars and analyzing wolf scat. In 2015, deer made up 75% of the wolf’s diet, while sea otters comprised 25%. But by 2017, sea otters became the primary food source for wolves, making up 57% of their diet, while deer declined to 7%. The study period ended in 2020.

Wolves and Sea Otters

Both sea otters and wolves were hunted to low populations in the past due to fur trading, but their populations have recovered in recent decades. With the reintroduction and legal protection of sea otters, new predator-prey interactions between the two species have emerged. The researchers studied wolves on Pleasant Island and the adjacent mainland from 2015 to 2021. GPS collars were placed on wolves and molecular tools were used to identify individual wolves and determine their diets. The results showed that wolves were indeed eating sea otters.

After wolves colonized the island in 2013. Deer populations plummeted, while the wolf pack increased. This was due to the availability of sea otters as a food source. The research has now expanded to wolves and sea otters in Katmai National Park & Preserve in southwest Alaska, with early results indicating that wolves are eating sea otters there as well.

The transition from deer to sea otters as the primary food source for wolves is a unique and surprising occurrence. The findings highlight the adaptability and resilience of both sea otters and wolves and their ability to coexist in the same ecosystem. Further research is needed to fully understand the impact of this new predator-prey relationship on the Alaskan ecosystem.

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