Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Tooth wear has been used to estimate wolf ages (Gipson et al. 1998, Fuller and Keith 1980), but the technique lacks precision and tooth abrasion might vary among regions (Ballard et al. 1995). Landon et al. (1998) examined 4 methods for determining wolf ages and concluded that tooth wear accurately aged pups and older wolves to within 4 years. They described tooth wear characteristics for 5 overlapping age classes and noted that additional study was needed to determine the precision of the technique.
Accurately placing wolves in age categories is important for studies of population dynamics, social organization, systematics, breeding, dispersal, relationships with prey including livestock depredations, and for determining suitability of individual wolves for restoration programs. These studies typically require accurate identification of pups <1 year old, yearlings and young adults 1-3 years old, mature wolves 3-9 years old, and individuals ≥10 years old, but seldom require precision ≤1 year. Our objectives were to determine the accuracy and precision achievable by using tooth wear to estimate wolf age, and to provide criteria for obtaining consistent results.