Moose movement rates are altered by wolf presence in two ecosystems

Mark A. Ditmer, John R Fieberg, Ron Moen, Steve K. Windels, Seth P. Stapleton, Tara R. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Predators directly impact prey populations through lethal encounters, but understanding nonlethal, indirect effects is also critical because foraging animals often face trade-offs between predator avoidance and energy intake. Quantifying these indirect effects can be difficult even when it is possible to monitor individuals that regularly interact. Our goal was to understand how movement and resource selection of a predator (wolves; Canis lupus) influence the movement behavior of a prey species (moose; Alces alces). We tested whether moose avoided areas with high predicted wolf resource use in two study areas with differing prey compositions, whether avoidance patterns varied seasonally, and whether daily activity budgets of moose and wolves aligned temporally. We deployed GPS collars on both species at two sites in northern Minnesota. We created seasonal resource selection functions (RSF) for wolves and modeled the relationship between moose first-passage time (FPT), a method that discerns alterations in movement rates, and wolf RSF values. Larger FPT values suggest rest/foraging, whereas shorter FPT values indicate travel/fleeing. We found that the movements of moose and wolves peaked at similar times of day in both study areas. Moose FPTs were 45% lower in areas most selected for by wolves relative to those avoided. The relationship between wolf RSF and moose FPT was nonlinear and varied seasonally. Differences in FPT between low and high RSF values were greatest in winter (−82.1%) and spring (−57.6%) in northeastern Minnesota and similar for all seasons in the Voyageurs National Park ecosystem. In northeastern Minnesota, where moose comprise a larger percentage of wolf diet, the relationship between moose FPT and wolf RSF was more pronounced (ave. across seasons: −60.1%) than the Voyageurs National Park ecosystem (−30.4%). These findings highlight the role wolves can play in determining moose behavior, whereby moose spend less time in areas with higher predicted likelihood of wolf resource selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9017-9033
Number of pages17
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank B. Olson, J. Davies, B. Wallace, T. Gable, A. McGraw, B. Kot, and others for field assistance in animal capture and data management. Funding was provided by Voyageurs National Park, National Park Service, Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, USGS-NPS Natural Resource Preservation Program, and Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • behavioral modifications
  • first-passage time
  • habitat selection
  • movement ecology
  • predation risk
  • predator–prey interactions


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