US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in: Biosocial Mechanisms of Population Regulation, edited by M. N. Cohen, R.S. Malpass, and H.G. Klein (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), pp 135-150.


U.S. government work.


The possibility of social regulation of wolf populations has been discussed in the literature for several years. Some of the first ecological studies of wolves indicated that their populations did not increase as rapidly as was theoretically possible, and that they reached a saturation point apparently not set by food. Subsequent captive studies demonstrated the existence of social mechanisms possibly capable of regulating population growth. However, the importance of these factors in wild populations has not been established. This paper has four objectives: (1) to evaluate the existing concept of "intrinsic limitation," (2) to propose that wolf population dynamics may be better understood by considering feedback between the prey resource and the wolf population, (3) to evaluate group selection explanations regarding evolution of "intrinsic limiting mechanisms," and (4) to propose an alternative explanation based on individual selection.