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The Usefulness of GPS Telemetry to Study Wolf Circadian and Social Activity

Samuel B. Merrill and L. David Mech


Abstract:  This study describes circadian and social movement patterns of 9 wolves and illustrates capabilities and limitations of Global Positioning System (GPS) telemetry for analysis of animal activity patterns. Wolves were studied at the Camp Ripley National Guard Training Site in Little Falls, Minnesota, and were captured via helicopter net gunning. All study wolves showed nocturnal movement patterns regardless of time of year. One wolf's movement pattern switched to diurnal when he conducted an extraterritorial foray from his natal territory. All data sets with GPS intervals ≤1 hour (n = 4) showed crepuscular movement peaks. We identified patterns of den visitation and attendance, estimated minimum distances traveled and minimum rates of movement, and observed that GPS location intervals may affect perceived rates of wolf travel. Global Positioning System telemetry was useful in determining when pack members were traveling together or apart and how long a breeding female wolf spent near her pups (e.g., 10 month old pups were left unattended by their mother for as long as 17 days).

Key words:  activity, Canis lupus, circadian, Global Positioning System, GPS, movements, telemetry, wolf


This resource is based on the following resource (Northern Prairie Publication 1335):

Merrill, Samuel B., and L. David Mech.  2003.  The usefulness of GPS telemetry to study wolf circadian and social activity.  Wildlife Society Bulletin 31(4):947-960.

This resource should be cited as:

Merrill, Samuel B., and L. David Mech.  2003.  The usefulness of GPS telemetry to study wolf circadian and social activity.  Wildlife Society Bulletin 31(4):947-960.  Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.  http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/mammals/gpswolf/index.htm  (Version 12AUG2004).


Table of Contents

Tables and Figures


Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the Minnesota National Guard, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Biological Resources Division of the United States Geological Survey, and the University of Minnesota. Advanced Telemetry Systems, Inc. donated several of the GPS radiotelemetry collars used in the study. We thank G. Blum, J. Brezinka, W. Brown, C. Erickson, M. Skoglund, G. Swenson, and E. Perry for assistance with implementation. G. DelGiudice, P. Jordan, and D. Siniff provided assistance with reviewing drafts.


Samuel B. Merrill, Environmental Office, Camp Riley Headquarters, 15000 Highway 115, Little Falls, MN 56345-4173, USA; present address: New England Environmental Finance Center, Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine, 49 Exeter Street, #205, Portland, ME 04104, USA; e-mail: smerrill@usm.maine.edu.

L. David Mech, Biological Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, 8711 37th St. SE, Jamestown, ND 58401-7317, USA; mailing address: The Raptor Center, 1920 Fitch Avenue, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA.

Samuel B. (Sam) Merrill (photo) is Projects Director at the New England Environmental Center, through the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. For 6 years he worked for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as Animal Survey Coordinator at the Camp Ripley National Guard Training Site. He now works on smart growth policy and research in the six New England states. He received a B.A. in zoology from the University of Maine at Orono and an M.S. in conservation biology and a Ph.D. in wildlife conservation from the University of Minnesota. L. David (Dave) Mech is a senior research biologist with the Biological Resources Division of the United States Geological Survey and an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota. He holds a Ph.D. from Purdue University. He has studied wolves and their prey for 45 years and published several books and numerous articles. Wildlife Society Bulletin photo: Samuel B. Merril

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