Last update: 11/25/2020
Wolf Q&A Discord RoundupQuestion: rowan asked on 08/03/20, "What's the latest on the Staten Island wolves? Are they still around?"
Answer: On March 12, 2019, Staten Island Live reported a sighting of a large canine (https://bit.ly/sticks). Experts concurred that it was most likely a coyote due to its body characteristics, including tail markings and tail position. Another sighting via video was reported Nov. 25 later in the year (https://bit.ly/3k8aawQ) and was deemed to be a coyote. Note that the canine in question exhibits many of the same characteristics as the one photographed previously. There are no wolves on Staten Island, and given that Staten Island is in the southern portion of New York (and is also an island!), it doesn't come as a surprise. There are no noted wild wolves living in New York, however, was one shot a decade ago (https://bit.ly/39SDSRG) and while wolves can wander into the state via Canada, they are largely prevented from doing so due to the presence of the St. Lawrence river (https://bit.ly/2XqzlRo). Coywolves, on the other hand, have appeared in even the state's southern portions (https://nyti.ms/30m5V8W among other sightings in 2017)
***Question: Rakshasa21 asked on 08/03/20, "What is the largest still active pack in Yellowstone currently, and how many living pack members do they have total on record?"
Answer: According to the Yellowstone Wolf Project Annual Report for 2019 (https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/u ... RT_508.pdf), there are 94 total wolves "living primarily" in Yellowstone National Park. There are eight packs total, with seven breeding pairs. The largest pack is Wapiti Lake, with 19 total members (10 adults and nine pups), but it's not the largest by much. Junction Butte's member count is 18. See the report for more details.
***Question: andrulian kinnie asked on 08/03/20, "If two wolves from rival packs mated, what would happen?"
Answer: You could argue that all packs are rival packs to each other because of territory claims, so "rival" is kind of a moot descriptor, here, so I can't really give you a great answer. Most likely, yes, a pair of wolves from separate packs would leave to start their own pack like they would in any other cirumstance. One angle that I think is in line with your thinking, however, is that it is possible for an unrelated wolf to find and stay within a pack while seeking a mate, at least initially. The issue of "adoptees" and who qualifies as an adoptee has come up often on the forums. According to David Mech in Wolves: Behavior, Ecology and Conservation, male adoptees are more likely than female adoptees; the male may stay as long as a few days to sometimes a year. In one instance from Denali, a male wolf left his new pack after a year, was shown with a maturing female from the same pack in the outskirts of the territory and then eventually settled in the territory adjacent with her to produce pups the next year. He basically waited for her to mature while he was in this foreign pack and even after he left the pack. More on this and the concept of multiple breeding can be found on page 3 in Google's free preview of the e-book.
***Question: Dove of the Dawn asked on 08/15/20, "Why is it that Yellowstone wolves don't hide food? (Like grabbing a chunk of meat and hiding it under snow or dirt)?"
Answer: Dave (loboLoco) actually has covered this a few times. I will quote/link to his post below as it also includes information relevant to the WolfQuest Game.
Dave's answer, 06/13/19:
A large kill, like an elk, provides a lot of meat for a wolf pack. Living in a feast or famine world, wolves often go several days without successfully making a kill, but they can gorge themselves and can quickly consume 20 pounds each. Wolfing down your food is a handy skill in Yellowstone since there are so many uninvited guests happy to come to your dinner party.
In fact, Yellowstone wolves don’t usually move or cache carcasses. They concentrate on keeping control of the main buffet until their bellies are full or they are driven away by a hungry bear or stranger wolves. If a wolf decides it is time to flee, they may grab a bite to go (and you can do this in WolfQuest 3).
As you can see in this video, bears, cougars, coyotes, ravens, foxes, and other animals benefit from wolf kills… and they don’t take long to arrive! Ravens are even known to follow wolves on the hunt so they can be first in line once the wolves tear open the feast. Hungry grizzlies are next to impossible to drive away and they are known to camp out to keep it for themselves. Every animal is alert at carcasses, assessing the risks vs. rewards. Since it is hard to eat and fight at the same time, you will have to decide whether you should dine or dash."
***Question: Rakshasa21#8523 asks on 08/15/20, “Can/Will a Lone Wolf or Dispersal Claim Territory when they don't have a mate or a pack?”
Answer: From my understanding, it does not seem like a territory can be properly established by a dispersal or lone wolf. In Wolves: Behavior, Ecology and Conservation, David Mech isn’t explicit about whether or not lone/dispersal wolves can establish territory. He instead emphasizes that dispersals seek three things: “a mate, food resources and an exclusive area.”
For your reference, there are a few ways dispersals may attain territory. (He does not use “lone wolf” here, but I assume the same would apply, e.g., if a wolf became a lone wolf due to a fractured pack and needed to leave to find a new mate.) Mech notes in Behavior, Ecology and Conservation that dispersal wolves can usurp an existing breeder of a pack, lure a mate from a pack and move to unoccupied territory or carve out territory from the existing territory “mosaic” of wolves as he calls it, or relocate themselves to the edge of local wolf population and establish themselves there. This all appears to be done in tandem with having a mate or for the sake of finding a mate.
When Mech speaks of territory establishment, he specifically refers to “a pair of wolves” as the establishers on page 21 under “Territory Size and Pack Size.” In another publication, which you can read here (https://bit.ly/3iNCEdY), Mech defines a wolf pack as “a … closed family group which maintains a territory.” He again refers to a pair of wolves as the establishers of territory on page 144. Finally, in a separate study, he defines lone wolves as wolves who “possess no mate and no territory.”( https://bit.ly/342O21b) It seems like it takes two wolves to properly establish and maintain (i.e., defend) a territory.
Note: The link provided to the second publication has some outdated information regarding wolf hierarchy.
***Question: RileySmiley>:3#0867 asked on 08/15/20, ”Do wolves kill other wolves for food? there are cases of wolves eating already dead wolves, but now I am wondering if they will actually kill others for food?”
Answer: Yes. Cannibalism can occur in wolves.
“Wolves are known to engage in cannibalism during times of food stress; injured members of the pack are especially vulnerable.”
page 362, Land Mammals of Oregon, B. J. Verts & Leslie N. Carraway
R.A. Rausch (1967a: 258) wrote the following about cannibalism in wolves: "Once a wolf is injured or handicapped, fellow pack members may consume him. I have recorded six occasions where a wolf caught in a snare or trap was devoured, except for the skull and a few bits of hair and viscera, by remnants of the pack. Aerial hunters who leave unskinned wolf carcasses in the field have returned the following day and found the carcasses being devoured by the remaining members of the pack.
Wolf, L. David Mech
Someone last year asked about coyotes consuming wolves; this isn’t totally relevant to your question but I thought I would link to it below.
viewtopic.php?f=9&t=84905&p=2563132&hil ... m#p2563132
***Question: andrulian kinnie#066 (“Owl”) asked, “If a wolf's mate died while they were raising pups & they got a new one, would the new mate kill off the pups if they aren't related?”
Answer: The literature on wolf infanticide is sparse, generally because it is difficult to observe. First, it is important to know that it does occur: between rival packs, infanticide has a higher probability of occurring (i.e., if one pack “invades” or encroaches upon the territory of another) but it depends on a few factors.
“Infanticide in wolves: seasonality of mortalities and attacks at dens support evolution of territoriality,” page 7 (https://bit.ly/2EDe7d0)“Together these data suggest that wolves have evolved to attack competitors when they are most likely to impact their reproduction, with the highest success during the denning season when they attack a rival pack’s den. When attacks on the den occur, typi-cally pups die, which in some cases is that year’s entire repro-ductive output. Loss of pups reduces pack size and may lead to loss of territory, or in some cases pack dissolution (Table 1; Cassidy 2013). This is a different interpretation than the one presented by Mech and Boitani (2003), which states the most effective time to interfere with reproduction is during the few months around breeding season (Mech and Boitani 2003:28) This interpretation based on our detailed observations of free-ranging wolves provides a deeper understanding of their territoriality: a hypercompetitiveness where virtually all move-ments are some kind of territory patrol, with directed attacks preferentially at the den, then during the breeding season, both of which function to reduce a neighbors’ competiveness (Mech and Boitani 2003)… We hypothesize that infanticide among wolves is not as rare as previously believed, just hard to detect, and is one of the driving forces behind wolf territoriality (Wolff 1997; Mech and Boitani 2003).”
The only information I could find regarding infanticide as it pertains to intrapack relations is this brief article, which examines pup killing by dominant females; the pups belonged to “subordinate” females. These killings occur in the confines of a captive wolf pack. The study notes this occurs in captive and likely free-ranging (wild) wolves, though as aforementioned the study is based off observations of captive wolves.
"Infanticide by female wolves," Peter J. McLeod“Infanticide by Kluane- 1983 On April 29th, Raven (6-year-old subordinate female) gave birth to two pups. On May 9th, Kluane (9-year-old a female) gave birth to at least three pups in a different den (estimated number of pups based on audio recordings made within Kluane's den). On the day after Kluane gave birth, she entered Raven's den and killed Raven's two pups.
Infanticide by Quill- 1987 On May 14th, Ursula (7-year-old subordinate) gave birth to at least five pups. Quill (5-year-old a), who had given birth in a different den on May loth, removed and killed all of Ursula's pups between the morning of May 17th and approximately midnight the same day. Observations of this infanticide are summarized in Table 1. Quill showed no signs of maternal behaviour. The five trips into Ursula's den during which Quill bit and (or) removed pups were very short (3 = 34.9 k 9.9 s). [Note by Koa: Ursula actually ended up eating one of her own dead pups killed by Quill.]”
While the study contains some dated information, it is safe to assume that this behavior may occur in wild wolves where there are multiple breeders (and consequently, litters) in a pack and where a dominance hierarchy is more likely to be established/necessary (which is unlike your typical wolf pack).
This still does not answer your question of whether infanticide occurs after an unrelated wolf usurps the position of a breeding wolf, either by death or by force. I am assuming if the original breeding wolf was killed by force (regardless of the wolf’s sex), then I would think the pups would be in a bit more danger by way of infanticide moreso than if a new breeding wolf was selected after the original’s death. It’s hard to say, so I cannot give you a concrete answer. I think the key thing to remember is that infanticide does occur against unrelated wolf pups and for that reason I wouldn’t write it out as a possibility; it just may not happen with the same consistency or under the same circumstances as it would with other animals.
***Question: Rakshasa21#8523 asked on 08/29/20, "Will inbreeding occur in packs or will the breeding pair/parents keep that from happening by means of lashing out to stop the pack members if they attempt to do this?”
Answer: According to L. David Mech, the most dangerous strategy to acquire a breeding position is when one challenges the established breeder. This does occur in captive packs and can result in inbreeding; Mech cites instances where yearling sons challenged their fathers and bred with their mothers in studies by Zimen and Packard. In wild wolf packs, this is rare: “[T]he evidence so far is that close inbreeding does not occur where outbreeding is possible (D. Smith et al 1997.)” (Wolves: Behavior Ecology and Conservation, 5). Unlike captive wolves, wild wolves have the ability to disperse, and If a dominant animal is attacked by its offspring in a hostile takeover act, the dominant wolf can escape and then return. This is not possible in captive wolf packs. For further information on dispersing as an anti-inbreeding mechanism, see this quote at viewtopic.php?f=6&t=68779&p=2155181&hil ... g#p2155181. (The original study appears to be lost in the link I give, sorry.)
However, instances of inbreeding among wild wolves have been observed. One example is from L. David Mech’s ten-summer study of wolves on Ellesmere Island.
“A Ten Year History of the Demography and Productivity of an Arctic Wolf Pack”“The pack had two consecutive alpha males during the ten-year study period, Alpha Male in 1986 and 1987, and Left Shoulder from 1988 through 1995. Left Shoulder was believed to be one of the 1986 pack members judged to be two years old at that time . . .The origin of Left Shoulder is unknown, but if he was the offspring of Mom and Alpha Male, Whitey would have been his younger sister. Thus his mating from 1988 through 1994 with Whitey would have constituted inbreeding. If Left Shoulder was at least 2 years old in 1986, then he was at least 4 years old when assuming the alpha male role in 1988 and at least 11 years old in 1995.”
Perhaps the most famous example of inbreeding observed in wild wolves is those who have lived on Isle Royale pre-“genetic rescue” on the island. (You can argue, however, that they behaved more like captive wolves when it came to inbreeding because of geographic restriction.)
“Isle Royale National Park is on an island in Lake Superior about 20 km from the nearest mainland point in Ontario, Canada. *The wolf population there was founded about 1950, probably by two (or three) wolves from the mainland population in Ontario, Canada and Minnesota, USA (Adams et al., 2011).* … Most importantly, it was discovered in 2008 from genetic examination of scats that a male wolf known as M93 (M indicates male), or Old Grey Guy, migrated to Isle Royale from nearby mainland Ontario, Canada, probably in 1997, across the ice bridge present that year (Adams et al., 2011). He was behaviorally dominant over resident wolves, mated with a native female for several years, *and their descendants quickly dominated the genetic ancestry of the population.* … However, in the past few years, the numbers of Isle Royale wolves have dramatically declined from 19 in 2010 to only 2 from 2016 to 2018. These last two wolves are closely related and do not appear reproductive. In the 5 years during which these two wolves have been together, they only produced a single pup that died in less than a year.”
“Genetics and extinction and the example of Isle Royale wolves,” P.W. Hedrick