US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



JOURNAL OF MAMMALOGY Vol. 58, No.4 (November 1977), pp 559-574.


Population parameters, mortality causes, and mechanisms of a population decline were studied in wolves (Canis lupus lycaon) from 1968 to 1976 in the Superior National Forest. The main method was aerial radio-tracking of 129 wolves and their packmates. Due to a decline in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the wolf population decreased during most of the study. Average annual productivity varied from 1.5 to 3.3 pups per litter, and annual mortality rates from 7 to 65 percent. Malnutrition and intraspecific strife accounted equally for 58 percent of the mortality; human causes accounted for the remainder. As wolf numbers began to decline, pup starvation became apparent, followed by lower pup production, and then by increased intraspecific strife. At higher densities, adult pack wolves were the most secure members of the population, but as the population declined, they became the least secure because of intraspecific strife.