Wildlife 2001: Populations

pp 1125-1139

Population Dynamics of African Wild Dogs

  • Todd K. FullerAffiliated withDepartment of Forestry and Wildlife Management, University of Massachusetts
  • , Pieter W. KatAffiliated withMolecular Genetics Department, National Museums of Kenya
  • , John B. BulgerAffiliated withDivision of Environmental Studies, University of California
  • , Anthony H. MaddockAffiliated withDepartment of Nature and Environmental Conservation
  • , Joshua R. GinsbergAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Oxford
  • , Roger BurrowsAffiliated withSerengeti Wildlife Research Institute
  • , J. Weldon McnuttAffiliated withDivision of Environmental Studies, University of California
  • , M. G. L. MillsAffiliated withNational Parks Board

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The reasons African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) populations declined to endangered status continent-wide have been difficult to document. However, demographic research to date indicates the following. Annual pack range size (150–3800 km2), density (2–35 dogs/1,000 km2), and territorial propensity of wild dogs appear related to prey density and temporal distribution, and habitat structure. Wild dogs usually live in packs of 10–14 composed of 1 or more adult females unrelated to 1 or more adult males, and their current or older offspring. Sex ratios of adults, yearlings, and pups usually are skewed toward males. Annually, usually 1 but sometimes 2 pack females breed and produce 8–12 pups each (up to 23 total); timing and frequency of parturition appears to coincide with prey abundance. Annual adult survival usually ranges from 0.65–0.85 and likely is most influenced by human-related mortality factors and disease (e.g., rabies and anthrax). Pup survival (0.1473x2013;0.73) appears to be influenced by number of adults in the pack and food availability. Dispersing wild dogs usually do so with same-sex siblings when 1.0–2.0 years old. Nutritional factors and perhaps natal pack composition likely affect the rates at which male or female wild dogs disperse. Dispersing groups join established packs or meet up with opposite sex groups and settle to establish new packs; dispersal distances may exceed 200 km. Observed annual finite rates of increase (k) for African wild dogs have ranged from 0.83–1.77, but potential rates may exceed 2.0. Reduced adult mortality, coupled with high pup survival and their subsequent dispersal as yearlings, can provide a mechanism by which populations decimated by catastrophic disease or human destruction can quickly rebuild if sufficient habitat is available. Collaborative ongoing research throughout a variety of habitats in Africa will facilitate examination of wild dog population dynamics, and provide information critical to conservation efforts.