October 2007- The first Iranian ecological study on Gray Wolf has been started since summer 2007 in Ghameshlou Wildlife Refuge, Esfahan province. Led by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) with cooperation of the Department of the Environment (DOE) and Environmental Sciences Research Center of Shanhid Beheshti University, the project is ongoing inside one of the best habitats of the species in the country where a high density of predators and preys occur. The main goal of this research project is to study on wolf’s impact as the area’s main predator on both wild and domestic ungulates, which is one of the main present concerns of the Iranian wildlife managers and experts.
According to investigations conducted since 2000 till 2004 by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) in Esfahan’s Karkas Hunting Prohibited Area and Miandasht Wildlife Refuge, it was concluded that the wolf apparently prefers wild preys, particularly gazelle and wild sheep and is not usually a serious threat to domestic animals. However, the animal is usually sacrificed of human’s fear and is killed due to its historical antecedent and occasional tragedies of livestock slaughter, as well. For instance, in Miandasht Wildlife Refuge where herders considered it as the main threat to their livestock, it was found that during the period of winter grazing season in the area’s pastures, herders lose on average less than one head of animal per a herd to the wolves’ depredation. In order to more research on this hypothesis, preliminary surveys were conducted to find a suitable habitat where possesses high density of wolf and both wild and domestic ungulates… and Ghameshlou WR was selected.
According to the initial studies, goitered gazelle is the most important wolf’s prey in the area following by wild sheep, wild goat, hare, rodents and plant materials forming the species food menu in Ghameshlou. It must be added that wolves do some damages to the livestock, mainly sheep. The main approach of investigating the area’s wolf diet is to collect and analyze scat samples as well as kill monitoring. Estimation of ungulates population is another important step indicating the level of wolves access to wild preys.
With an area of around 80000 hectares, Ghameshlou WR is one of the most outstanding wildlife habitats in the country and beside Mouteh WR which is located in neighborhood, possesses the highest density of ungulates such as goitered gazelle and wild sheep. It is thought that both area’s wolf populations are in mutual interaction and ICS intends to conduct some researches in Mouteh WR to achieve to a comprehensive conclusion. It must be noticed that Mouteh had been among the Asiatic cheetah’s strongholds in the country and there has been some recent reports of cheetah’s presence verified by us in this region.