• pond surrounded by green brush, reflecting a distant range of snow-covered mountains that are dominated by one massive mountain

    Denali

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

There are park alerts in effect.
hide Alerts »
  • Road Open to: Mile 15 (Savage River)

    The Denali Park Road is open to Mile 15, Savage River. Conditions beyond this point prevent vehicle travel, though pedestrian travel is permitted. More »

Searching for Scat

January 15, 2014 Posted by: Jamie Dittmar and Julie Carpenter

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man.”

-Wilderness Act, Section 2 (c).

Sun and Annie

Annie and the sun(NPS photo/ Lauren Gomes)

What does this “community of life” look like in Denali National Park and Preserve? What wildlife is present and why? Has this community shifted in the last 70 years? University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher, Kelly Sivy, is addressing these basic questions, specifically relating to coyotes and how they are interacting with other carnivores in the Park.According to Sivy, the coyote population has increased dramatically here in the last century.

“Adolph Murie provided some of the earliest accounts of coyotes in Denali while conducting his field observations of wolves in the 1940s. Although Murie noted the coyote's low abundance at the time, by the 1970s, they were becoming a common sight along the Park road. Today, coyotes are frequently observed in Denali, prompting numerous questions regarding their apparent increase and ecological role in the park, of which little is presently known.”

Kelly and her team analyze the genetic information in coyote, fox, and wolf scats to estimate the population size and growth rates of coyotes and red foxes living among wolves. This genetic analysis also provides insight into how much coyotes and red foxes depend on carrion scavenged from wolf kills.

One of the limiting factors in collecting scat is the inability to go deep into the park to where these animals are roaming. That’s where we come in. We’ve teamed up with Kelly to act as her extra eyes (and in the case of our canine rangers, noses) to find out where the coyotes and red foxes are visiting and what they are leaving behind. Each time we head out into the park, we equip ourselves with a scat pack that includes plastic baggies for collecting samples and a GPS so that we can mark coordinates of scat location. It’s natural instinct for the park dogs to want to sniff out other critters and mark where these animals have been. Fortunately, these other critters are just as curious to sniff out the park dogs. The dogs are in charge of following their noses, and Kennels staff collects the data.

 

patty and annie discuss data

Patty explaining Data to Annie. (NPS photo/ Lauren Gomes)

We’ve also set up “scat trails” that are proximal to locations that coyotes are frequenting. Animals will often use these “trails” for easy travel, instead of wasting their energy walking through the deep snow. It is not uncommon for us to find fresh carnivore tracks on these routes only a day or two after we’ve been on them. We provide them easy passage from place to place, and they supply us with scat.Our most recent patrol 40 miles into the park, while pondering the most efficient way to traverse an avalanche on the park road, the kennels staff spotted movement across Igloo Creek on the side of Sable Pass. At first we thought we spotted two wolves in the distance. When we looked closer we realized we were watching a coyote and a lynx sharing a dall sheep. After exploring the area, we discovered an active kill site, with signs of at least three different species that are being studied in Kelly’s research. Witnessing this event not only provided us with an abundance of scat, but will provide Kelly invaluable insight into the feeding dynamics and coexistence of carnivores in the park.

VIP collecting scat

Kennels VIP collecting scat (NPS Photo/ Julie Carpenter)

Superstar dog: Tatum

In this blog we'd like to recognize Tatum for her efforts skijoring with Patty in search of scat. We'd also like to commend Tatum for her efforts to stay awake during the filming of this video (click on the link below to watch).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uddzyyPP9U0&feature=share&list=UUyfk7EjiFzH49NnWqRyLC3w

 


4 Comments Comments Icon

  1. margo - Vancouver Canada, bc
    April 27, 2014 at 01:17

    Annie is a smart girl - now two yrs old? QUESTION - what time of day was Annie's winter sun photo taken? I realize you are on AK time (one hour before Pac Sd Time here in Vancouver BC) can't wait to come back to Denali soon - i hope. my fav part is the dog kennels.

  2. Will Forsberg - Stampede, Alaska
    March 28, 2014 at 10:56

    How do the researchers factor in the amount that the dog trail changes the dispersal of the animals they are studying? All the animals follow the dog trail eat the dog droppings. How does that affect the research?

  3. dragoslav - Vienna, Austria (UTC+01), Australia
    March 13, 2014 at 09:18

    Our wide base of Architecture firms means that there’s a lot you can learn when you become one of us. The best thing architects can do is to find a platform that can expose their skills and enable them to become competitive professionals. Architecturewards is dedicated to promote the use of infrastructure Architecture as well as educate members on which skills are key for them to raise their levels of expertise. Architecturewards has enabled its architects to fully comprehend the relevancy of Infrastructure Architecture and how to align themselves with new skill and ideas beneficial for their career growth. http://www.architecturewards.com/

  4. dragoslav - Vienna, Austria (UTC+01), Australia
    February 14, 2014 at 07:27

    Blog | finding reliable employees may require a lot of time and efforts especially the one specializing in architecture and construction jobs. With an overabundance of people who wants to be architects out there, will it be easier for architectural firms to find new workers who are well-educated and full of experience. http://www.architecturewards.com/

 

Post A Comment

Submit Comment

Did You Know?

a thin green plant against a background of white clouds, blue sky and bright sun

Visibility is an important component of measuring Denali's air quality. Visibility data, such as that from the Wonder Lake camera, supplements chemical data from filter samples. Air here is still clean, but traces of pollution from local, regional and international sources exists on filter samples.