Lone wolf movements in relation to season and sex

Philip Dubbe, Elizabeth Halfman, Kevin Rockwood



Introduction

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After making observations on the movements of wolves in the northern United States, we devised a hypothesis stating:
Dispersed female wolves do not travel as far in distance as dispersed male wolves during mating season (January through April).


Materials and Methods

To test our hypothesis, we set out to plot dispersed male and female wolves over a period from January through August. This would give us equivalent time during the breading season and non breading season.
We interpreted the wolf telemetry data and the online data from wolves.org to find wolves to match our criteria. We also used so internet sites in order to find out when the wolves breeding season was.
Each member of the group plotted points of wolf sightings of one lone male and one lone female wolf during that time period. Totalling 6 lone wolves, 3 females, 3 males.
We used Google Earth to plot the points of our selected dispersed wolves. By doing this we were able to see where they traveled and how far they traveled.
After plotting points in Google Earth, we measured the total area (longitude x latitude) and documented our findings in a Microsoft Excell Spreadsheet. We then took screen-shots of selected wolves on Google Earth and of the Excell Spreadsheet.



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Results

After plotting dispersed wolves during breading season (January - April) and during an equivalent time of the non breading season (May-August), Our data showed a few results.
First, our results showed that during the entire time we observed wolf movements (January - August),dispersed male wolves had a much larger territory than dispersed female wolves. We observed that dispersed male wolves traversed an average area of 311.1 square miles, while female lone wolves traversed only 46.4 square miles.
Second, our results showed that dispersed male wolves travel much farther during breading season (January - April) than during an equivalent time of the non breading season (May - August). We observed that dispersed male wolves traversed an average of 86.4 square miles during the non breading season, and an average of 162.21 during the breading season.
Third, our results showed that dispersed female wolves traveled only slightly farther during breading season (January - April) than during an equivalent time of the non breading season (May - August). We observed that female lone wolves traversed an average of 28.1 square miles during the non breading season, and an average of 46.4 during the breading season.
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Interpretation

Our results seem to support our original hypothesis. Dispersed female wolves do not travel as far in distance as dispersed male wolves during mating season. (January through April)
We observed that dispersed male wolves traveled much greater distances than lone females. We believe this is because males are more instinctively driven to search for mates and start a new pack.
Male dispersed wolves also traveled much farther during the breading season. We believe this is a result of males being more sexually driven to find a mate during this time of year.
For dispersed female wolves, they tend to stay in a relatively small area and travel only slightly farther during the breading season. When in heat, dispersed female wolves may stay in a smaller area so that they can be found by males and are able to mate. Females may stay in a small area so they can sent mark that area to attract passing lone males.


Discussion

Although we believe our results to be accurate, there are a few factors that could result in experimental error. The most difficult part of this project was finding wolves that met the criteria for our experiment. The wolf telemetry data was not specific to which wolves had dispersed from their packs, so we were forced to speculate by examining wolf associates and the number of wolves they were spotted with. It is quite possible that some of the wolves we assumed to have dispersed were actually part of packs. Another problem was finding wolves that were dispersed for the time frame we needed (January - August). Lastly, since wolf sightings were often irregular, the wolves we tracked could have traveled much greater distances than what we observed from the data.


Summary

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After making observations about the movements of wolves in the northern United States, we hypothesized: Dispersed female wolves do not travel as far in distance as dispersed male wolves during mating season (January through April). We conducted an experiment to document the locations of dispersed males and females during the breading and non breading seasons. The results of our experiment showed our hypothesis to be supported.


Links to Wolf Sites

www.animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Canis_lupus.html
www.nationalwildlife.org/nationalwildlife
www.wolfhowl.org
www.wolf.org