Passenger in taxi travelling to Yellowknife from Fort Providence records video of rarely seen hunt on the side of Highway 3
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, December 17, 2014
A pack of wolves attempting to take down a herd of bison was recently captured on video by a group of people travelling to Yellowknife from Fort Providence by taxi.
The video, which has been widely shared online since it was uploaded to Facebook by Kerry Mercer over the weekend, shows a passenger filming from the front seat of the taxi while travelling along a snowy Highway 3, when all of a sudden a herd of approximately 20 bison can be made out in the distance.
The taxi slows down to allow them to cross the road, at which point multiple grey wolves can be seen attacking the back of the herd. As the car gets closer, three wolves scatter to either side of the road. The bison then charge at a full gallop on the shoulder of the highway, keeping pace alongside the taxi as it gets back up to speed.
As the car drives away an elated unidentified woman, who is shooting the video from the passenger seat, can be heard saying, "we saved them."
"It's really great that they had the camera," said Dean Cluff, wildlife biologist with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), who has watched the video several times since it was put online. "It really evokes emotion. Some people root for the wolves, some people root for the bison."
Cluff has been studying wolves' predatory patterns in the NWT for close to 20 years. In that time, he has seen wolves take on caribou in real life but never a herd of bison. He said videos like the one posted online give a glimpse into how wolves hunt.
"There's a saying that a wolf makes a living by its feet," he said.
According to Cluff, wolves will often approach a herd and harass them to try and get them to run, so they can pick out the youngest and weakest animals among them.
While the taxi may have provided some temporary relief for the bison, Cluff didn't rule out the possibility that the wolves would continue to stalk them after the camera stopped rolling.
"Sometimes it's over quickly, sometimes it can take nine or 10 hours," said Cluff. "I would guess that once things quiet down those wolves would try again."
"Hunger is an amazing force – it's a powerful force. You can get pretty determined if you're hungry."
Cluff said ENR recently completed a draft management plan for the Mackenzie bison herd, which was decimated by an anthrax outbreak in the summer of 2012.
The draft of the plan, which was completed this spring, is currently under review.
Yellowknifer was unable to reach Mercer by press time.