Evidence of wolf dispersal in anthropogenic habitats of the Polish Carpathian Mountains
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- Gula, R., Hausknecht, R. & Kuehn, R. Biodivers Conserv (2009) 18: 2173. doi:10.1007/s10531-009-9581-y
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In the course of their maturation, most young wolves leave their natal pack and disperse in search for mating partners, improved food availability and new territories. We investigated whether this dispersal is affected by anthropogenic infrastructure in a 5,000 km² area of the eastern region of the Polish Carpathian Mountains occupied by wolves. A radio-collared male wolf covered 230 km while dispersing through forested hills and densely populated valleys. To test if such dispersal is common in the population we analysed by microsatellite genotyping 39 samples taken from live-trapped wolves or wolves found dead in the study area. Although the obtained genotypes were assigned to different clusters in Bayesian tests, we could not ascribe this structure to landscape features, but rather to shared ancestry of wolf individuals found in distant locations. Moreover, we could not detect a spatial genetic structure in the wolf population, indicating a random occurrence of genotypes within the study area. Observation of the dispersing wolf and the absence of spatial genetic structure imply that wolves are still able to roam the entire area despite high densities of roads and a dense human population. Thus, we concluded that the existing anthropogenic infrastructure does not restrict wolf dispersal in the area and the studied wolves represent a coherent part of the Polish Carpathian wolf population.