Researchers in northern Minnesota captured an extremely cute scene on one of its trail cameras recently: a gray wolf pup testing out its voice for the first time.
The Voyageurs Wolf Project shared a video of the 4-week-old wolf practicing its howl, which is quite impressive for such a young pup. Here's the video (warning: it's loud, so check your volume):
The Voyageurs Wolf Project is a University of Minnesota research project that is studying the behavior of wolves in Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota. Researchers focus on what wolves do in the summer, when they're more solitary predators, and are trying to better understand the predation behavior and reproductive ecology of the animals, such as the number of pups that are born and where wolves have dens.
Researchers this spring have been visiting wolf dens in the park to count the number of pups. But because they can't always see the number of pups inside, they set up trail cameras to get a better count.
"Sometimes the trail camera footage verifies our initial pup count and other times we realized how many pups we 'missed'," researchers said on Twitter.
A few weeks ago, researchers said they counted five pups in a den but after checking their trail camera footage, they realized there were actually eight pups.
In another series of tweets, researchers shared photos of the "Paradise Pack" that calls an old cedar tree home. Because the den was so narrow, they could only spot two pups when they visited in person. They put out trail cameras to see how many actually live in the den, and they counted five.
And sometimes the trail cameras capture the wolf pups doing adorable wolf pup things, like howling for the first time. (The Voyageurs Wolf Project is raising money to buy a total of 120 trail camera packages. You can donate here.)
Researchers say the trail cameras help them study not only litter size but other parts of wolf ecology, such as denning behavior, pup survival, wolf pack and population size, and unique behaviors, like discovering wolves go fishing and eat blueberries, as well as other discoveries.
Related [Dec. 18, 2018]: Watch: First-ever footage shows wolves hunting freshwater fish in Minnesota
They also say the trail cameras help them share their research with a larger audience, noting the footage has been viewed more than 28 million times on social media. And more cameras mean more videos.
Related [April 15]: Researchers share first-ever collar camera footage from wild wolf
In a tweet Monday, researchers said they're wrapping up their pup counting and tagging efforts for the spring, noting they've counted and tagged wolf pups from seven different packs.
Next, researchers will spend the summer trying to figure out how many of the pups survive. They plan to share updates on social media as time progresses.
According to the Minnesota DNR's 2020 wolf population survey, there were an estimated 631 wolf packs and 2,696 wolves (but as few as 2,244 or as many as 3,252) in Minnesota in the winter of 2019-2020.