Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Unexplained patterns of grey wolf Canis lupus natal dispersal

June 1, 2020

Natal dispersal (movement from the site of birth to the site of reproduction) is a pervasive but highly varied characteristic of life forms. Thus, understanding it in any species informs many aspects of biology, but studying it in most species is difficult. In the grey wolf Canis lupus, natal dispersal has been well studied. Maturing members of both sexes generally leave their natal packs, pair with opposite‐sex dispersers from other packs, near or far, select a territory, and produce their own offspring. However, three movement patterns of some natal‐dispersing wolves remain unexplained: 1) long‐distance dispersal when potential mates seem nearby, 2) round‐trip travels from their natal packs for varying periods and distances, also called extraterritorial movements, and often not resulting in pairing, and 3) coincidental dispersal by individual wolves from a given area in the same basic directions and over the same long distances. This perspective article documents and discusses these unexplained dispersal patterns, suggests possible explanations, and calls for additional research to understand them more clearly.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Unexplained patterns of grey wolf <i>Canis lupus</i> natal dispersal
DOI 10.1111/mam.12198
Authors L. David Mech
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Mammal Review
Series Number
Index ID 70215642
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center