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Wolves lose their predatory edge in mid-life, new U of Minnesota study shows
Date:10/26/2009

e factor limiting Yellowstone's elk population," MacNulty says.

When older wolves can no longer hunt successfully, younger wolves share their kill with them, in what MacNulty describes as a lupine version of Social Security. While a high ratio of old-to-young wolves may benefit elk, it could strain the wolf population because there aren't enough workers to support retirees.

Montana legalized hunting wolves after they were removed from the endangered species list in 2007. Although hunting is prohibited in the park, packs wander beyond it boundaries and radio-marked wolves have been killed. MacNulty says hunting won't put the species at risk, but it actually skews the population towards younger wolves, which could mean more deaths, not fewer, for the elk.

MacNulty became a field biologist at Yellowstone after graduating from the University of Colorado in 1995, the year wolves were reintroduced, and focused his doctoral studies on their predatory behavior. He has continued tracking Yellowstone's wolves as a University of Minnesota postdoctoral researcher for Craig Packer, the world's foremost authority on lions.

MacNulty's next step is to create mathematical models to study the long-term effects of fluctuations in the age structure of Yellowstone's wolf population on the elk population. His collaborators include Douglas Smith (Yellowstone Center for Resources); John Vucetich, Michigan Technological University) David Mech (US Geological Survey); Daniel Stahler (Yellowstone Center for Resources) and Craig Packer (University of Minnesota).


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Contact: Patty Mattern
mattern@umn.edu
612-624-2801
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert

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