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Differential wolf-pack-size persistence and the role of risk when hunting dangerous prey

August 19, 2016

Risk to predators hunting dangerous prey is an emerging area of research and could account for possible persistent differences in gray wolf (Canis lupus) pack sizes. We documented significant differences in long-term wolf-pack-size averages and variation in the Superior National Forest (SNF), Denali National Park and Preserve, Yellowstone National Park, and Yukon, Canada (p<0.01). The SNF differences could be related to the wolves’ risk when hunting primary prey, for those packs (N=3) hunting moose (Alces americanus) were significantly larger than those (N=10) hunting white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) (F1,8=16.50, p=0.004). Our data support the hypothesis that differential pack-size persistence may be perpetuated by differences in primary prey riskiness to wolves, and we highlight two important extensions of this idea: (1) the potential for wolves to provision and defend injured packmates from other wolves and (2) the importance of less-risky, buffer prey to pack-size persistence and year-to-year variation.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Differential wolf-pack-size persistence and the role of risk when hunting dangerous prey
DOI 10.1163/1568539X-00003391
Authors Shannon M. Barber-Meyer, L. David Mech, Wesley E. Newton, Bridget Borg
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Behaviour
Index ID 70175748
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center