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Is There A Mechanism That Causes Wolves from Same Area to Disperse Long-distances in Same Direction?

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Dispersal is a fundamental component of the ecology of most animal populations. Dispersing individuals typically leave their natal habitat in search of a mate or available resources such as food and space (Gotelli 2008). Grey wolves (Canis lupus) typically disperse as juveniles (<3 yrs old) and can travel long distances (>1000 km; Wabakken et al. 2007) in search of vacant territory and a mate (Fuller et al. 2003). Prior work, based predominantly on radio-telemetry studies, has demonstrated that wolf dispersal strategies and behaviour are complex (Mech, submitted). In particular, there are a few extraordinary accounts where dispersing individuals from the same natal pack or population disperse >100-300 km and settle in the same pack or in close proximity to one another (Mech 1987; Boyd and Pletscher 1999; Kojola et al. 2006). Such observations suggest that there could be an underlying biological pattern (e.g., inherited or learned habitat preferences or movement decisions; Sanz-Pérez et al. 2018) that causes individuals from the same area to disperse similar directions and distances. Recent advances in GPS-tracking technology provide an unprecedented ability to study and understand long-distance wolf dispersal patterns and strategies (Wabakken et al. 2007). In 2018, we documented 2 GPS-collared wolves that were caught in the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem (GVE) that dispersed individually but eventually interacted with one another several months after dispersing >250 km north of the GVE. We question and discuss whether this observation and examples from prior research are the result of chance encounters or a biological pattern.

Enjoy these animations from Voyageurs Wolf Project: Wolves can wander for a long time in search of a place to call home and see how 6 wolves from different adjacent packs move around their territories at the same time based on GPS-collar locations!

Document: Gable_CWBM_WolfDispersal.pdf  PDF icon

Author(s): Thomas D. GABLE, Austin T. HOMKES, Steve K. WINDELS, and Joseph K. BUMP

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