Date of this Version
O'Brien, D.J., D.E. Beyer, E. Largent, J.R. Melotti, C.N. Ott-Conn, D.H. Lonsway, T.M. Cooley, R. Atkinson, M. Clayson, and K.A. Straka. 2022. Foot injuries in Michigan, USA, grey wolves (Canis lupus), 1992-2014. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 58(1):148-157.
The range of gray wolves (Canis lupus) in the contiguous US is expanding. Research and monitoring to support population recovery and management often involves capture via foothold traps. A population-level epidemiologic assessment of the effect of trap injuries on wolf survival remains needed to inform management. We describe the baseline rate, type, and severity of foot injuries of wolves born 1992–2013 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, evaluate the reliability of field-scoring trap-related injuries, and the effect of injuries on wolf survival. We assessed foot injuries by physical and radiographic exam at postmortem and/or time of capture for 351 wolves using the International Organization for Standardization 10990-5 standard and the effects of injuries, sex, age, previous capture and body condition on survival using proportional hazards regression. We used ordinal regression to evaluate epidemiologic associations between sex, age, previous capture, body condition, cause of death and injury severity. Most wolves (53%) experienced no physically or radiographically discernable foot injuries over their lifetimes. Among those wolves that did experience injuries, 33% scored as mild. Foot injuries had little epidemiologically discernable effect on survival rates. Wolves with higher foot trauma scores did experience an increased risk of dying, but the magnitude of the increase was modest. Most limb injuries occurred below the carpus or tarsus, and scoring upper-limb injuries added little predictive information to population-level epidemiologic measures of survival and injury severity. There was little association between injury severity and cause of death. Based on necropsy exams, previous trap injuries likely contributed to death in only four wolves (1.1%). Our results suggest that injuries resulting from foothold traps are unlikely to be a limiting factor in recovery and ongoing survival of the Michigan gray wolf population.
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