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


Global Positioning System (GPS) telemetry has great potential for providing information about wildlife (Rodgers and Anson 1994, Moen et al. 1996, Merrill et al. 1998, Mech and Barber 2002, Merrill 2002). Although wolves are among the species most studied, many areas of wolf biology include substantial gaps (Mech 1995). Circadian movement is one of these areas, and no previous study has examined such patterns in dispersing wolves or in wolves traveling on extraterritorial forays. We tested the utility of GPS telemetry for studying circadian and social movement patterns in gray wolves (Merrill 2002). Monitoring of dens and rendezvous sites during the pup rearing season has provided information on attendance patterns (Carbyn 1975, Harrington and Mech 1982, Mech and Merrill 1998) and activities (Ballard et al. 1991,Theuerkauf et al. 2003) near these places, but little is known about circadian movement patterns away from them. Several studies have examined circadian wolf movement patterns using conventional tracking techniques (Kolenosky and Johnston 1967, Peterson et al. 1984, Mech 1992, Vila et al. 1995, Ciucci et al. 1997) in combination with activity sensors (Kunkel et al. 1991, Kreeger et al. 1996, Theuerkauf et al. 2003), but availability of GPS radiocollars provides an opportunity to fill in the gaps in greater detail than previously possible.

We used short interval GPS telemetry to study circadian movement patterns in 9 wolves. Wolves studied included a 2 year old male before and during an extraterritorial foray and a breeding female before, during, and after denning to identify how their circadian movement patterns changed with the onset of different stages in their life history.

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