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Is Incest Common In Gray Wolf Packs?

Study Areas

Denali National Park and Preserve ("Denali") is an area of 24,400 km² in central Alaska, USA. Elevation ranges from 150 to 6,194 m, with a third of the area permanently glaciated. The remaining area ranges from subarctic tundra to coniferous and deciduous forest. The Denali wolf population increased during this study from four to eight wolves per 1,000 km² in the parts of the park and preserve inhabited by wolves. Pack size ranged from 2 to 29, and mean territory size was about 1000 km² (Meier et al., 1995). Denali wolves preyed on moose (Alces alces), caribou (Rangifer tarandus), Dall's sheep (Ovis dalli), and beaver (Castor canadensis). Wolves were legally protected from killing by humans in 9,200 km² of parkland, whereas limited killing was allowed in the 15,200 km² surrounding the protected area. Only eight wolves were known to have been killed by humans within this buffer area during the eight years of this study.

The Superior National Forest (SNF) study area comprises 2,060 km² in northeastern Minnesota, with elevations of 325-700 m. Vegetation is a mix of coniferous and deciduous forest and is inhabited by whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus), moose, and beaver, which are the primary prey of wolves. Wolf density has remained relatively stable at about 25 wolves per 1000 km² (Mech and Goyal, 1995). Pack sizes ranged from 2 to 15, and territory size ranged from 80 to 400 km² (Mech, 1986 and unpublished). Although wolves are legally protected in Minnesota, a few are still killed illegally each year.

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