Single visits to active wolf dens do not impact wolf pup recruitment or pack size

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evaluating methods used to capture and mark neonates is necessary for ensuring research methods are ethical, follow best practices, and do not have long-term unintended impacts on neonates or populations. We used a quasi-experimental approach (reference versus treatment) to determine whether visiting wolf dens and marking wolf Canis lupus pups affects important wolf population metrics. Specifically, we examined whether pup recruitment and pack size differed between packs where we visited dens and handled pups (‘disturbed packs' = treatment group) and those where we did not visit dens (‘undisturbed packs' = reference group). During 2019–2023, we studied 43 wolf packs and litters, 19 of which were disturbed packs and 24 of which were undisturbed. We found no difference in recruitment or pack size between disturbed and undisturbed wolf packs. However, we did observe substantial annual variation in recruitment and pack size, which indicated that other ecological factors (e.g. prey abundance) were likely responsible for annual changes in recruitment and pack size. Our findings are consistent with several other studies, and together this research indicates that wolf dens can be visited once and wolf pups handled briefly for research purposes without having a measurable effect on recruitment and pack size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalWildlife Biology
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Wildlife Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos.


  • handling
  • pup survival
  • recruitment
  • wolf dens
  • wolf pack
  • wolf pups


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