Stable pack abundance and distribution in a harvested wolf population

Journal of Wildlife Management
By: , and 

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Abstract

Harvesting gray wolves (Canis lupus) could affect the abundance and distribution of packs, but the frequency of change in pack occurrence (i.e., turnover) and relative effects of harvest compared to environmental factors is unclear. We used noninvasive genetic sampling, hunter surveys, and occupancy models to evaluate the effect of harvest on occurrence and turnover of packs in a population of wolves managed with intensive harvest in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, 2012–2014. We tested 2 alternative hypotheses: the abundance and distribution of wolf packs were dynamic because of harvest or the abundance and distribution of wolf packs were generally stable regardless of harvest. We found the mean annual probability for wolf pack occupancy ranged 0.72–0.74 and the estimated distribution of wolf packs was consistent over time, 2012–2014. Our top model indicated wolf pack occupancy was positively associated with forest cover and the probability of detecting a wolf pack was positively associated with the intensity of harvest for wolves in that area. We observed frequent turnover of individuals within packs that were genetically sampled consecutive years but not of entire packs. Because turnover of packs occurred infrequently during our study, we could not reject our hypothesis that occurrence of packs was generally stable in a harvested population of wolves. Our results suggest environmental factors have a stronger effect than harvest on the abundance and distribution of wolf packs in southwestern Alberta, but harvest appears to strongly influence turnover of individuals within packs. We hypothesize local dispersal from within the study area and neighboring packs on the periphery of the study area helped promote pack stability. © 2018 The Wildlife Society.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Stable pack abundance and distribution in a harvested wolf population
Series title Journal of Wildlife Management
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.21616
Volume 83
Issue 3
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description 14 p.
First page 577
Last page 590
Country Canada
Other Geospatial Alberta
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