Taking to the Skies to Look for Wolves

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Last time, we showed you some of the ways researchers are able to catch wolves so they can put tracking collars on them. This time, we joined our wolf expert, Dr. Brent Patterson, for an adventure in the sky, where we learned how he tracks these wolves after a few months.

Taking flight

What’s the easiest way to spot a wolf? By getting a bird’s eye view from a helicopter, of course!

Helicopter
Our rides for the day: really cool helicopters!

Dr. Patterson and his team use helicopters to find wolves and we were invited along for the ride. We made the trip to Algonquin Provincial Park, and after hours of driving we finally arrived to see two HUGE helicopters waiting for us! They were SO cool and we couldn’t wait to start flying.

antenna1
We found wolves using special equipment like this antenna

Dr. Patterson explained that the helicopters we would be using had special equipment that would help us in our search. Antennas attached to each side would pick up a signal from the collars of any wolves in the area; when a wolf is close, an instrument in the helicopter would go “ping!” and the pings would get louder and louder the closer we got to a wolf.

After a quick rundown of the safety rules, we were ready to take off!

Ping Ping Ping!

It can get pretty noisy in a helicopter but the “pings” come through loud and clear.

After flying for some time, we picked up our first signal and began to follow it. As we got closer to the wolf, a second signal starting coming through, telling us there was another wolf close by. We quickly wrote down our location and continued on our way to find the first wolf. We got as close as we could with the helicopter, then landed so Dr. Patterson could hop out to get even closer.

brent_snowshoeing
Dr. Patterson used snowshoes to get a closer look at a wolf.
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This collar was found in a bear’s den.
 

We left Dr. Patterson to explore and took off to find the second wolf. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the place where we first heard it, the signal had disappeared. We flew around, trying to pick it up again, but the signal was lost. Finally admitting defeat, we returned to Dr. Patterson to see what he discovered.

He came back to the helicopter with a collar in his hands. He found a collar in a bear’s den and thought that the wolf probably wandered in and became the bear’s lunch!

Searching for Tracks

While we were flying around trying to pick up another signal, it was also a perfect time to look for new wolves to put collars on. As we flew around, we kept an eye on the ground for any tracks in the snow. When we spotted some, we landed and Dr. Patterson inspected them. He was able to tell what animal made the tracks just be looking at them. It was amazing!

tracks in the snow
Animal tracks in the snow

An Amazing Experience

What an adventure! Flying in the helicopter was so much fun and we saw some pretty amazing animals, like moose and eagles. We even saw a wolf, but it was outside of the park area so we couldn’t land.

Seeing Dr. Patterson out in the field was really impressive. We really respect and appreciate all the hard work scientists do to keep animal populations thriving.

moose
We saw a wolf, moose and eagles!

You can help support scientists like Dr. Patterson by starting a Bring Back the Wild campaign and fundraising to protect animals in need.

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