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Wolf pack rendezvous site selection in Greece is mainly affected by anthropogenic landscape features

Abstract

In wolves, most offspring mortality occurs within the first 6–8 months of their life. As wolf pups pass this entire period at either the den or rendezvous sites, their selection by wolf packs may affect pup survival and recruitment. Rendezvous sites are important for pup survival as they are used during summer and early autumn, when intense human activity may increase pup mortality. Adult wolves and pups can be killed by livestock guarding dogs during summer and intentionally or accidentally during large game hunting in autumn. This study describes factors related to rendezvous site selection in order to enhance their protection and management. We studied the rendezvous site selection of 30 wolf packs in central and northern Greece between 1998 and 2010, after locating 35 sites using the simulated howling survey method and telemetry. We considered a series of environmental and anthropogenic predictors of wolf rendezvous site selection at two spatial scales. At the landscape-population scale, wolves selected rendezvous sites below 1,200 m asl, with large inter-site distance (mean, 12.9 km), and avoided partially forested or open habitats, indicating preference for covered, spaced areas with seasonally stable resources. At the home range scale, wolves selected rendezvous sites away from forest roads and villages, close to water sources, and in areas with low forest fragmentation, indicating avoidance of human presence and disturbance. In the summer of 2011, we used an ensuing resource selection model (RSF, AUC = 0.818) to successfully locate seven new rendezvous sites outside our previous survey area, verifying the utility of prediction maps (all new sites were at areas with 0.8–1 model probability). Rendezvous prediction maps can be used to reduce field effort when monitoring wolf populations, assess livestock predation risk, design protected areas, and reduce human disturbance on reproductive wolf packs.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank I. Hatzimichael, V. Koutis, S. Tzorgakis, P. Menounos, P. Pavlides, G. Giannatos, K. Selinides, Y. Lazarou, M. Petridou, A. Giannakopoulos, S. Riegler, H. Pilides, and T. Tragos for assisting during field work; I. Aravides, Y. Mertzanis, S. Psaroudas, and K. Papapavlou for their support throughout the study; and C. Astaras for linguistic support and helpful comments during revision of the manuscript. We also thank two anonymous referees whose comments helped to greatly improve an earlier version of the manuscript. Field work and analyses were partially funded in the framework of several conservation projects by CALLISTO NGO, E.C DG Env., Greek Ministry of Agriculture, Arcturos NGO, Egnatia odos S.A, Ergose, Argyropoulos SA, and Exergia S.A.

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Correspondence to Yorgos Iliopoulos.

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Communicated by C. Gortázar

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Iliopoulos, Y., Youlatos, D. & Sgardelis, S. Wolf pack rendezvous site selection in Greece is mainly affected by anthropogenic landscape features. Eur J Wildl Res 60, 23–34 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-013-0746-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-013-0746-3

Keywords

  • Wolf
  • Homesite
  • Rendezvous site
  • Human activity
  • Forest fragmentation
  • Prediction maps