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Selectivity of wolf predation on red deer in the Bieszczady Mountains, Poland

Abstract

A pattern of wolfCanis lupus Linnaeus, 1758 predation on red deerCervus elaphus Linnaeus, 1758 was studied in Bieszczady Mountains in 1991–2002. In total 324 remains of red deer > 4 months old, killed by wolves throughout the year, were found. The sex, age and bone marrow fat content of wolf kills were compared with the same characteristics within the free living red deer population. The overall contribution of calves killed by wolves (24%) in October-May was higher than in the population (17%), and decreased from autumn to spring. Adult males were more vulnerable to wolf predation than adult females: stags constituted 62% and hinds 38% of adult red deer killed by wolves, whereas in the population, the percentages were 37 and 63%, respectively. Stags killed by wolves were younger (\(\bar x = 4.1\) years old) than hinds (\(\bar x = 8.9\) years old). Wolves killed more > 8 years old hinds and < 5 years old stags than available in the population. In wolf kills, the average fat content in femur marrow was higher among hinds (84.9%) than stags (69.3%) and calves (66.1%). Only 8% of hinds had < 70% femur marrow fat content, whereas 40% of calves and 38% of stags had marrow fat values below that level. Marrow fat content showed seasonal variation and was the lowest in March among all sex-age classes. The monthly share of stags in all kills, and hinds in hind-calf part of the sample was negatively correlated with their monthly average bone marrow fat content, and monthly share of calves was positively correlated with monthly average bone marrow fat content of adults. The segregation of social units (hind-calf and stag groups), except during the rutting season, and the low fat reserves of males from midwinter until spring contribute to the high overall incidence of calves and adult males and the relatively low incidence of adult females among wolf kills.

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Associate Editor was Krzysztof Schmidt.

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Śmietana, W. Selectivity of wolf predation on red deer in the Bieszczady Mountains, Poland. Acta Theriol 50, 277–288 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03194490

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Key words

  • Canis lupus
  • Cervus elaphus
  • predation pattern
  • Carpathians