November 15, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 46

Study tracks salmon use by other animals

Eagles aren’t the only critters out there feeding on salmon.

Dr. Taal Levi spent last summer in the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve quantifying the importance of salmon to terrestrial wildlife.

Levi set up 20 motion-triggered cameras along the Chilkoot River, at Herman Creek, along the Kelsall and Klehini drainages, in the upper Chilkat River and at 18 Mile and 10 Mile to see who else was eating fish.

Besides brown bears, the list includes ravens, mink, martens, coyotes and wolves.

“Wolves are eating a lot of salmon here. The big-activity wolf areas tend to be around spawning grounds,” Levi said. He said he suspects wolves rely more on salmon here than they do in other areas.

They’re not just eating carcasses, either. Wolves will wade into shallow channels and pull live fish out, he said.

Levi is hoping to work with hunters and trappers, acquiring hair samples to test for marine nitrogen, which would provide information on how much of a role salmon play in the diet of furbearers.

Levi’s cameras took three photos in sequence. He’ll be presenting his findings as a movie shot at each camera site.

Levi’s work started in 2011 and continued this year. He was scheduled to speak at the eagle festival Thursday.