Utah State Today - University News

Utah State University Logo

Natural Resources Week - Protect Water, Protect Life

USU's Quinney College of Natural Resources and the QCNR…


Summer Camps at Swaner EcoCenter

Registration for Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter’s…


Fifth Annual Braveheart 5/10K: Run for Jadee

Braveheart 5/10K is a run organized by AFROTC's Det. 860…


5th Annual Braveheart 5K/10K & Children's Fun Run Charity Race

The 5th Annual Braveheart 5k/10k and Children's Fun Run…


Mountain Lion! The Story of Pumas and People

The exhibition blends science, history, and art to…

More events


Blogger Facebook Twitter You Tube RSS

Family Room: Wolves Need Space to Raise Offspring says USU Ecologist

Thursday, May. 15, 2014

wolves in Yellowstone National Park fighting
In an National Science Foundation-funded study published in the 'Journal of Animal Ecology,' USU ecologist Dan MacNulty says wolves need enemy-free space to safely raise pups. Photo by Dan Stahler/National Park Service.
USU faculty member and researcher Dan MacNulty
Wildlife ecologist Dan MacNulty is an assistant professor in USU's Department of Wildland Resources and the USU Ecology Center.

Without adequate space to raise their offspring, wolf packs lash out at competing clans and fight to the death to protect their turf.


That’s among findings of a recent study by Utah State University ecologist Dan MacNulty and colleagues from the University of Oxford and the Yellowstone Wolf Project. The team published the research in the April 21, 2014, online issue of Journal of Animal Ecology. Their paper will appear in a future print edition of the British Ecological Society publication.


“Many think wolf populations are limited only by prey numbers,” says MacNulty, assistant professor in USU’s Department of Wildland Resources and the USU Ecology Center. “That’s not the case. A vital resource for wolves is enemy-free space to safely raise pups.”


Using 13 years of data collected from 280 radio-collared wolves in Yellowstone National Park, the researchers assessed the effect of wolf density, prey abundance and population structure, as well as winter severity, on age-specific survival in prey-rich and prey-poor areas of the park.


Yellowstone serves as a valuable laboratory to study the canines, MacNulty says, because the animals are not hunted there.


“It’s difficult to study territorial behavior outside the park where wolves are more widely dispersed,” he says. “Inside the park, we could watch fights between packs.”


The team found attacks on wolves by rival packs is the number one cause of mortality — even in areas where prey is abundant.


“More wolves meant more fighting and killing,” MacNulty says. “As a result, survival rates declined as wolf density increased.”


The study offers valuable management information in areas where wolves co-exist with humans and livestock.


“Although our findings suggest that high density wolf populations can tolerate some human-caused mortality, we caution that the level of tolerance will depend on how such losses disrupt wolf social structure and replace natural sources of mortality,” MacNulty says.


Related links:


Contact: Dan MacNulty, 435-797-7442, dan.macnulty@usu.edu

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517, maryann.muffoletto@usu.edu

     email icon  Email story       printer icon  Printer friendly

Send your comment or question:

We welcome your response. Your comment or question will be forwarded to the appropriate person. Please be sure to provide a valid email address so we can contact you, if needed. Your response will NOT be published online. Thank you.

NOTE: Do Not Alter These Fields, they are used to limit spam: