Variation in group composition and environment can affect helping behavior in cooperative breeders. Understanding of how group size, traits of individuals within groups, food abundance, and predation risk simultaneously influence helping behavior is limited. We evaluated pup-guarding behavior in gray wolves (Canis lupus) to assess how differences in individuals, groups, and environment affect helping behavior. We used data from 92 GPS-collared wolves in North America (2001–2012) to estimate individual pup-guarding rates. Individuals in groups with low helper-to-pup ratios spent more time guarding young than those in groups with more helpers, an indication of load-lightening. Female helpers guarded more than male helpers, but this relationship weakened as pups grew. Subset analyses including data on helper age and wolf and prey density showed such factors did not significantly influence pup-guarding rates. We show that characteristics of individuals and groups have strong influences on pup-guarding behavior in gray wolves, but environmental factors such as food abundance and predation risk from conspecifics were not influential.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Individual, group, and environmental influences on helping behavior in a social carnivore|
|Contributing office(s)||Coop Res Unit Seattle|