Wildlife Researchers Showcase Their Best Trail Cam Carnivore Sightings

Voyageurs Wolf Project

The Voyageurs Wolf Project is a University of Minnesota research initiative designed to understand more about wolves within northern Minnesota’s Greater Voyageurs ecosystem.

Researchers use equipment and tools like trail cameras to understand wolf behavior, predation, reproductive ecology, and movement.

As seen on Laughing Squid, Voyageurs Wolf Project has compiled highlights from nearly two years of footage that shows not only the beautiful wolves within the Greater Voyageurs region but the other large carnivores that live in and travel through protected land.

“This camera was out in the woods for almost two years (2021-2023) and here is the ‘highlight reel!’ What makes this video particularly neat is that we got footage of virtually every large carnivore in northern Minnesota aside from the ‘black cougar’ that some locals claimed to have seen and the famed but elusive ’squatch,” writes the Voyageurs Wolf Project on Instagram.

The organization adds that “large” carnivores are anything the size of a pine marten and bigger. Pine martens weigh about three pounds.

The highlight reel video is missing footage of river otters, which the organization says is the only real-world large carnivore that lives in the area that is absent. Featured animals include lynx, badgers, bobcats, wolves (of course), a red fox, coyotes, martens, fishers, a skunk, and black bears.

Since the trail cameras catch both wolves and coyotes, the footage is beneficial for helping researchers understand the difference between the two related canids. Many coyotes in North America include wolf ancestry, so there is sometimes a lot of overlap between wolves and coyotes in appearance. Size is a key factor in differentiating the two canids, along with behavior and predation habits.

Voyageurs Wolf Project notes that although the wolves in northern Minnesota are often on the “smaller side,” ranging from about 55 to 67 pounds, they are still much larger than coyotes. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says that coyotes weigh about 30 pounds on average.

Since wolves are federally protected species, the Minnesota DNR must keep close tabs on the state’s wolf population. The most recent survey update, performed in 2022, breaks down wolf territory distribution, size, and pack size. The state believes there are nearly 500 active wolf packs now, down a. bit from recent years but still much higher than in the 1980s and 1990s.

While the new video from Voyageurs Wolf Project is primarily interesting from the perspective of seeing a diverse group of carnivores in their natural habitats, it highlights the importance of trail cameras in wildlife management and research projects. When monitoring the health of large carnivores especially, it is challenging to see them in person due to the large territory size and the fact that nearly all wild animals avoid human interaction.