Name: Wolf (Canus lupis)
General description: The paws of a wolf are as large as 5 inches in size with four toes on both front and rear. Front tracks are splayed wider than the rear tracks.
Where, when to look: Find these tracks year round. They can be found in the Juneau area near Berners Bay and Taku Inlet, and high on all alpine ridges. Pack populations fluctuate from year to year. In the past year, wolves have been seen on Douglas Island. Wolves are known to occur in remote portions of most of the major drainages along the Juneau road system. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game appreciates hearing reports of wolf sightings in the area, and questions or comments can be called in to the regional office at 465-4265.
Lookalikes, and how to tell them apart: Coyote, lynx, and domestic dog tracks look similar to those of a wolf, but they are smaller. Only the largest dogs, such as the Saint Bernard breed, have feet as large as wolves, and tracks made by these dogs are usually distinguishable by their clumsier gait, with wider straddle. Domestic dog tracks usually orbit trails used by humans and describe random, playful and exploratory patterns. With less energy to spare, wolf tracks usually describe a more deliberate style of travel.
More about the wolf: Wolves mate in February or March and usually give birth to an average of five pups in May and early June. According to ADF&G, wolves in Southeast eat primarily Sitka black-tailed deer, mountain goats, beaver and moose, where they are available. Wolves can catch and eat salmon in the summer, and these fish are particularly important to young wolves. In coastal areas, wolves can also be found scavenging on beaches.
• This tracks feature appears every other week during winter months and is compiled by members of Discovery Southeast, a local nonprofit offering a variety of programs for local youth aimed at educating and engaging students in their outdoor world. For more information on the organization, go online to discoverysoutheast.org.
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