Wolf social ecology
The first real beginning to our understanding of wolf social ecology came from wolf 2204 on 23 May 1972. State depredation control trapper Lawrence Waino, of Duluth, Minnesota, had caught this female wolf 112 km (67 mi) south of where L. D. Mech had radio-collared her in the Superior National Forest 2 years earlier. A young lone wolf, nomadic over 100 km2 (40 mi2) during the 9 months Mech had been able to keep track of her, she had then disappeared until Waino caught her. From her nipples it was apparent that she had just been nursing pups.
"This was the puzzle piece I needed," stated Mech. "I had already radio-tracked lone wolves long distances, and I had observed pack members splitting off and dispersing. My hunch was that the next step was for loners to find a new area and a mate, settle down, produce pups, and start their own pack. Wolf 204 had done just that."
During the decades since, we have seen this process many times, and it represents one of the primary ways in which wolves become breeders (Rothman and Mech 1979). However, there are several other ways, and it is only now, after 25 years of study and the wedding of wolf radio-tracking with biochemical analyses of wolf genetics (see Wayne and Vila, chap. 8 in this volume), that we seem to have a reasonably complete picture of wolf social ecology (Meier et al. 1995; D. Smith et al. 1997; Mech et al. 1998).
|Wolf social ecology
|L. David Mech, Luigi Boitani
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Fort Collins Science Center