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Details of Extensive Movements by Minnesota Wolves (Canis lupus)


We located wolf 2480 at 28 locations in his pack territory from 13 November 1972 through 21 March 1973; then on 26 March 1973 the wolf was located 12 km north of his territory, his first extraterritorial location. After that, the wolf was located 17 times through 30 June 1973 away from his pack's territory and traveled almost exclusively through wilderness (we recorded only one highway crossing). He returned to within 8 km of his pack territory after 1 mo (Fig. 1). Because of the infrequent radio-tracking, wolf 2480 could well have visited the pack without our having detected it. We do not know if the first trip was a predispersal foray or an actual dispersal.

After 19 April 1973 wolf 2480 moved north again and then west through Ontario to a more open area (17 May 1973) with more roads and humans and eventually to the east shore of Lake-of-the-Woods. He traveled northeastward parallel with the shore for about 40 km and then the signal emanated from the same location for 2 wk, so a ground check was made. The collar was found by itself, with no indication of what happened to the wolf.

Figure 1
FIG. 1.   Long-distance travel routes of four wolves collared in Minnesota. Double line = wolf 2480, thin single line = wolf 5399, dashed line = wolf 7803 (killed), thick solid line = wolf 7804 (killed). Shaded area represents 1998 range of breeding wolves

Satellite-collared wolf 7803 left his territory on 12 September 1998 headed directly away from the known wolf breeding range (Fig. 1). His collar collected 55 locations during movements through agricultural areas before he was shot by a coyote (Canis latrans) hunter near Howard Lake, MN on 14 November 1998. He made at least 33 highway crossings. Wolf 7804, also satellite-collared, left on 26 March 1999; during her travels the wolf stopped directional movement for 37 d between Wisconsin Dells and Stevens Point (Fig. 1). This area includes several rugged wetlands with low human presence. The collar collected 274 locations by 21 September, when the wolf returned to Camp Ripley. On 25 September the wolf left again, settled about 40 km east of Camp Ripley and was killed illegally on about 11 November 1999. She made at least 215 highway crossings.

The GPS collar on male wolf 5399 collected 1121 locations on 57 days of the animal's extraterritorial trips. The wolf left the territory on 31 May 1998 and traveled an average of at least 3.55 km/h (n = 220 line segments) during his trip. He made at least 17 highway crossings. He returned to near his natal territory and, therefore, we considered the long movement an extraterritorial foray (Messier, 1985). The wolf may have rejoined the pack shortly after the collar was dropped.

No data are available that would allow an estimate of the proportion of wolves in the populations studied that make long distance moves because: (1) with one wolf (2480), a special effort was made to follow it wherever it went, whereas no such effort was made for other wolves in that study, (2) wolf 5399 was part of a very small sample on which GPS collars were tested (Merrill et al. 1998) and (3) with the last two wolves (7803 and 7804), a special effort was made to select predispersal individuals (nonalpha, at least 1-y old wolves) on which to place the satellite collars.

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