US Geological Survey


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Mech LD, Barber-Meyer SM, Erb J (2016) Wolf (Canis lupus) Generation Time and Proportion of Current Breeding Females by Age. PLoS ONE 11 (6): e0156682. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0156682


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Information is sparse about aspects of female wolf (Canis lupus) breeding in the wild, including age of first reproduction, mean age of primiparity, generation time, and proportion of each age that breeds in any given year. We studied these subjects in 86 wolves (113 captures) in the Superior National Forest (SNF), Minnesota (MN), during 1972–2013 where wolves were legally protected for most of the period, and in 159 harvested wolves from throughout MN wolf range during 2012–2014. Breeding status of SNF wolves were assessed via nipple measurements, and wolves from throughout MN wolf range, by placental scars. In the SNF, proportions of currently breeding females (those breeding in the year sampled) ranged from 19% at age 2 to 80% at age 5, and from throughout wolf range, from 33% at age 2 to 100% at age 7. Excluding pups and yearlings, only 33% to 36% of SNF females and 58% of females from throughout MN wolf range bred in any given year. Generation time for SNF wolves was 4.3 years and for MN wolf range, 4.7 years. These findings will be useful in modeling wolf population dynamics and in wolf genetic and dog-domestication studies.