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Grey wolves Canis lupus have been studied extensively, but there has been no detailed review of the species' feeding ecology, despite growing debate about how to conserve wolf populations while limiting their impacts on wild or domestic ungulates. Here, we assess the extent to which the grey wolf diet varies among and within North America, Europe, and Asia. We derived dietary data from searches of published literature. We grouped studies based on their bioregional location. We compared grey wolf diet among locations using non-metric multidimensional scaling and analysis of similarity. We assessed whether increased human impacts are associated with decreased grey wolf dietary diversity. Finally, using studies from southern Europe, we assessed whether the importance of wild ungulates in grey wolf diet has increased over time, coincident with a decline in domestic species in grey wolf diet over time. We compiled dietary data from 177 studies incorporating 94607 scat and stomach samples. Grey wolf diet was dominated by large (240-650 kg) and medium-sized (23-130 kg) wild ungulates, but variation in the percentages of wild ungulates consumed, along with variation in the percentages of domestic and smaller prey species consumed, contributed to the dietary differences found among and within continents. We found no evidence that grey wolf dietary diversity varies globally, although the results from southern Europe suggest that grey wolves may switch their diets away from domestic species if more wild ungulates are available. The diversity of prey consumed by grey wolves shows that the species is capable of surviving dramatic anthropogenic upheaval. However, there is an urgent need to increase our understanding of grey wolf foraging ecology in human-dominated landscapes, in order to determine whether restoration of depleted prey populations, coupled with effective damage-prevention measures, will reduce human-wolf conflicts.
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1
REVIEW
Food habits of the world’s grey wolves
Thomas M. NEWSOME* Desert Ecology Research Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of
Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia; Global Trophic Cascades Program, Department of Forest
Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA and Centre for
Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria
3125, Australia. E-mail: tnew5216@uni.sydney.edu.au
Luigi BOITANI Department of Biology and Biotechnologies “Charles Darwin”, Sapienza University of
Rome, Rome 00185, Italy. E-mail: luigi.boitani@uniroma1.it
Guillaume CHAPRON Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences,
SE - 73091 Riddarhyttan, Sweden E-mail: gchapron@carnivoreconservation.org
Paolo CIUCCI Department of Biology and Biotechnologies “Charles Darwin”, Sapienza University of
Rome, Rome 00185, Italy. E-mail: paolo.ciucci@uniroma1.it
Christopher R. DICKMAN Desert Ecology Research Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of
Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia. E-mail: chris.dickman@sydney.edu.au
Justin A. DELLINGER School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle,
Washington 98195, USA. E-mail: jad1nel2@gmail.com
José V. LÓPEZ-BAO Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences,
SE - 73091 Riddarhyttan / Research Unit of Biodiversity, Oviedo University, 33600 Mieres, Spain.
E-mail: jv.lopezbao@gmail.com
Rolf O. PETERSON School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, Michigan Technological
University, Houghton, Michigan 49931, USA. E-mail: ropeters@mtu.edu
Carolyn R. SHORES School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle,
Washington 98195, USA. E-mail: shores.carolyn@gmail.com
Aaron J. WIRSING School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle,
Washington 98195, USA. E-mail: wirsinga@uw.edu
William J. RIPPLE Global Trophic Cascades Program, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society,
Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA. E-mail: bill.ripple@oregonstate.edu
Mammal Review (2016) © 2016 The Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
ABSTRACT
1. Grey wolves Canis lupus have been studied extensively, but there has been no
detailed review of the species’ feeding ecology, despite growing debate about how
to conserve wolf populations while limiting their impacts on wild or domestic
ungulates. Here, we assess the extent to which the grey wolf diet varies among
and within North America, Europe, and Asia.
2. We derived dietary data from searches of published literature. We grouped
studies based on their bioregional location. We compared grey wolf diet among
locations using non-metric multidimensional scaling and analysis of similarity.
We assessed whether increased human impacts are associated with decreased grey
wolf dietary diversity. Finally, using studies from southern Europe, we assessed
whether the importance of wild ungulates in grey wolf diet has increased over
time, coincident with a decline in domestic species in grey wolf diet over time.
3. We compiled dietary data from 177 studies incorporating 94607 scat and
stomach samples. Grey wolf diet was dominated by large (240–650 kg) and
medium-sized (23–130 kg) wild ungulates, but variation in the percentages of
Keywords
Canis lupus, conservation, diet, livestock,
wild prey
*Correspondence author.
Submitted: 17 September 2015
Returned for revision: 9 October 2015
Revision accepted: 15 December 2015
Editor: KH
doi: 10.1111/mam.12067
Mammal Review ISSN 0305-1838
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Mammal Review (2016) © 2016 The Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
T. M. Newsome et al.
Food habits of grey wolves
INTRODUCTION
Before humans emigrated from Africa some 60000 years
ago and populated the rest of the world, all continents
were inhabited by a variety of megafauna (animals > 44 kg;
Hofreiter 2007). These species included, for instance, the
sabre- toothed cat Smilodon populator, marsupial lion
Thylacoleo carnifex, woolly mammoth Mammuthus primi-
genius, and the short- faced bear Arctodus simus. However,
during the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene (c. 24000
to 5000 before present), about two- thirds of the large
mammal genera went extinct (Hofreiter 2007). Multiple
explanatory hypotheses for this global extinction event
have been proposed, but hunting and habitat changes
caused by humans are likely to have been the primary
drivers (Sandom et al. 2014). Human actions continue to
cause extinctions of large- bodied species in most continents
(Pimm et al. 2014), and those species that have survived
are typically confined to reduced ranges (Laliberte & Ripple
2004, Ripple et al. 2014). In particular, large mammalian
carnivores (15 kg) have experienced massive declines in
their populations and geographic ranges around the world,
and 77% of the 31 largest extant carnivores are still un-
dergoing population declines (Ripple et al. 2014).
The grey wolf Canis lupus is a prime example of a large
carnivore that has experienced recent population declines.
Indeed, the species had one of the most extensive historical
geographic distributions of any mammal, occurring
throughout the northern hemisphere north of 15–20°N
(Paquet & Carbyn 2003). However, during the 19th and
20th centuries (1800–2000), the grey wolf was eliminated
by humans from much of its former range (Laliberte &
Ripple 2004). As a consequence, in many places grey wolves
became mainly restricted to remote and undeveloped areas
with sparse human populations (Paquet & Carbyn 2003,
but see Chapron et al. 2014, López- Bao et al. 2015b). In
recent decades, grey wolf numbers have increased in some
areas because of enhanced legal protections, natural recolo-
nisation, and reintroductions (Chapron et al. 2014, Ripple
et al. 2014). Yet, there is still a deeply rooted hostility
against the species because of its perceived impacts on
human lives and livelihoods (Bruskotter & Wilson 2014,
Dressel et al. 2015), various traditions and cultural practices,
and political scapegoating (Chapron & López- Bao 2014,
López- Bao et al. 2015a).
Throughout its range, the grey wolf’s predatory habits
and diet lie at the root of its conflict with humans
(Naughton- Treves et al. 2003). Specifically, grey wolves, as
predators, consume mostly meat, and are often accused of
depleting populations of wild ungulates that serve as game
for hunters, or of affecting the profitability of livestock
farming (Bergstrom et al. 2009). Yet, there is growing inter-
est in restoring grey wolf populations, both to conserve
them and to harness their ecological services (Ripple et al.
2013, 2014). To facilitate informed discussion of grey wolf
conservation and management, it is critical to develop a
clear understanding of grey wolf dietary ecology in land-
scapes with varying levels of human influence. Grey wolves
are now recolonising human- dominated regions in North
America and Europe for the first time in many decades or
even centuries, and insight from existing dietary studies
will aid in predicting some of their ecological impacts (Mech
2012) and avoiding ecological surprises (Lindenmayer et al.
2010) that might undermine conservation and restoration
goals. Indeed, a deep understanding of past ecological lit-
erature has been identified as an obvious and critically
important part of formulating good hypotheses, framing
alternative views of ecosystems and, in turn, developing
ecological research (Lindenmayer et al. 2010).
In this paper we provide a comprehensive review of grey
wolf diet at a global scale. To derive our results we reviewed
field studies in which the diet of grey wolves was quantified
from scats (faeces) and stomach contents. To evaluate large-
scale spatial variation in grey wolf diet, we grouped studies
into three continents that encompass the range of this
carnivore: North America, Europe and Asia. We then
grouped the studies according to their bioregional location
within each continent. Our primary objective was to deter-
mine whether grey wolf diet varies among and within these
wild ungulates consumed, along with variation in the percentages of domestic
and smaller prey species consumed, contributed to the dietary differences found
among and within continents.
4. We found no evidence that grey wolf dietary diversity varies globally, although
the results from southern Europe suggest that grey wolves may switch their diets
away from domestic species if more wild ungulates are available.
5. The diversity of prey consumed by grey wolves shows that the species is capable
of surviving dramatic anthropogenic upheaval. However, there is an urgent need to
increase our understanding of grey wolf foraging ecology in human-dominated land-
scapes, in order to determine whether restoration of depleted prey populations, coupled
with effective damage-prevention measures, will reduce human-wolf conflicts.
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Mammal Review (2016) © 2016 The Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Food habits of grey wolves
T. M. Newsome et al.
continents. Because grey wolves occur across a gradient of
human landscape- transformation, from human- dominated
regions to relatively undisturbed areas (Paquet & Carbyn
2003, Peterson & Ciucci 2003, Chapron et al. 2014), we
expected that any dietary divergence would stem from dif-
ferential use of anthropogenic foods and wild prey.
Our secondary objective was to test two specific predic-
tions. Firstly, we explored whether increased human impacts
on the landscape would result in a change in the diversity
of prey consumed by grey wolves. We expected that dietary
diversity would be lower in areas heavily modified by
humans because human alteration of the globe has caused
widespread environmental and ecological changes, including
loss of biological diversity (Chapin et al. 2000). Secondly,
as wild ungulate populations have been restored in southern
Europe in recent decades, we tested specifically whether
there is any evidence in the available literature on the diet
of wolves in this region that the importance of wild ungu-
lates in grey wolf diets has increased over time. We use
the results to determine the extent to which grey wolves
have modified their dietary preferences in human- altered
ecosystems, and discuss the implications for conservation
and management.
METHODS
Global review of grey wolf diet
We reviewed the literature on grey wolves and identified
publications with a clear focus on diet. This literature was
compiled through queries of Web of Science, JSTOR,
Google Scholar and BIOSIS Previews for titles, abstracts
and full texts with the search terms ‘wolf’ or ‘Canis lupus
and ‘diet’ with no restrictions on year or language applied
(Appendix S1) and through the personal bibliography of
one of the authors. Where large numbers of returns (>500)
were obtained from the data base searches, we sorted the
results by relevance, an automated feature of each search
engine, to assist in determining which results were not
relevant based on the search terms. We also cross- checked
the reference lists of all papers found during the initial
search. Any additional data found via the searches of refer-
ence lists, including books, conference presentations, and
publically available theses and reports were included in
our review.
We selected papers (Appendix S2) in which data were
provided on the frequency of occurrence, relative occur-
rence, biomass or volume of prey species consumed by
grey wolves from scat or stomach contents. We included
dietary data from all subspecies of grey wolves, with the
exception of domestic dogs Canis lupus familiaris and the
New Guinea singing dog Canis lupus hallstromi. The African
wolf Canis lupus lupaster was excluded because of
taxonomic ambiguity (Gaubert et al. 2012). The species
name for the dingo (Canis dingo, previously Canis lupus
dingo) has been revised and it is no longer considered a
subspecies of extant grey wolves (Crowther et al. 2014);
it was therefore excluded.
Summarising the data
We recorded the location (centroid), sampling length (start,
middle and end), season (summer, autumn, winter, spring),
source of dietary material (scat or stomach), analytical
method (frequency, volume, or biomass calculation), and
sample size (number of scats or stomachs) for each study,
based on descriptions provided. Scat or stomach contents
were recorded at the individual prey species level whenever
possible, although some small prey items were grouped
using categories commonly adopted in diet studies, such
as fruit, birds, rodents, and rabbits/hares, for simplicity.
To allow for a broad assessment of dietary preferences, we
pooled the data from each study into 10 broad food catego-
ries based on adult body sizes (Appendix S3). The 10 food
categories were: 1) domestic species; 2) large wild ungulates
(240–650 kg); 3) medium- sized wild ungulates (23–130 kg);
4) medium- sized mammals (4–21 kg); 5) small mammals
(0.1–2 kg); 6) rodents (~0.1 kg); 7) birds; 8) other (includ-
ing large carnivores and fish); 9) garbage; 10) fruit. Where
individual studies included dietary data from multiple loca-
tions in different habitats, we treated these as independent
samples. For studies that reported dietary data for individual
wolf packs, or on a yearly, seasonal or monthly basis, we
calculated average values for each prey species or group.
The occurrence of vegetation and invertebrates in grey wolf
scats was infrequently reported so we excluded these cat-
egories in subsequent analyses.
To assess geographical variation in grey wolf diet we
hierarchically grouped the studies at two different spatial
scales. Firstly, we grouped the studies at the continent level
(Fig. 1). Then, we grouped studies within each continent
based on 14 biome boundaries determined by Olson et al.
(2001; Fig. 1). Where studies occurred in the same biome
but were geographically separated by over 100 km, we used
finer scale ecoregion mapping (Olson et al. 2001) to assess
whether the studies should be separated. This process
resulted in nine bioregions in North America, eight in
Europe and six in Asia (Fig. 1).
Reviewing the data set
Percentage frequency of occurrence per sample (%FO),
expressed as the percentage of scats or stomachs containing
a particular food taxon, is the most consistently used meas-
ure of the relative importance of prey taxa in carnivore
diet (Klare et al. 2011). Wherever possible, we recorded
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Mammal Review (2016) © 2016 The Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
T. M. Newsome et al.
Food habits of grey wolves
%FO to allow for comparisons among studies. However,
%FO can yield different results to frequency of occurrence
per food item, percentage volume of remains in each food
category, or percentage biomass in scats (Klare et al. 2011).
Thus, a common approach in dietary reviews is to exclude
studies that do not use %FO (Doherty et al. 2015). Studies
are also excluded on the basis of sample type (scat or stom-
ach), sample sizes, and survey length (Doherty et al. 2015).
However, under this approach, up to 40% of studies would
have been removed from our review, greatly reducing our
sample sizes and global coverage. Therefore, to assess
whether we needed to exclude any studies we undertook
two exploratory analyses.
Firstly, we calculated the average dietary content values
for the 10 broad food categories in each bioregion in each
continent. We repeated this step using a subset of the data
with the following criteria for inclusion: 1) %FO was used;
2) dietary data came from scat contents; 3) >25 scats were
sampled; 4) multiple seasons were sampled. After compiling
the average values into separate tables, we converted them
into a Euclidian distance matrix using the software package
ade4 (Dray et al. 2014) in R (Anonymous 2008). We then
used a Mantel test (Mantel 1967) to evaluate the associa-
tion between the full and subset distance matrices in each
continent. As a second test, we ran a multivariate linear
model using the R package mvabund (Wang et al. 2012).
We tested for an effect of sampling length (in years), season
(summer, autumn, winter, spring), source of dietary mate-
rial (scat or stomach), analytical method (frequency, vol-
ume, or biomass calculation), and sample size (number of
scats or stomachs) on the 10 broad food category values
for each individual study in each continent. We used 1000
resampling iterations and analysis of variance to test for
the overall effect of each variable on the 10 broad food
category values. The results of these two tests confirmed
that there were no statistical grounds to exclude studies
from our review (Appendices S4 and S5). If the full and
subset distance matrices had been different, we would have
found non- significant P values for each continent com-
parison using the Mantel test. Moreover, we would have
found significant P values if any of the different sampling
variables influenced the dietary results within each conti-
nent. These scenarios did not occur, so all studies were
included in subsequent analyses (Appendices S4 and S5).
Since we included all studies, the importance of various
prey taxa in the diet are expressed throughout the paper
as averages of four measures: 1) percentage frequency of
occurrence per scat or stomach (%FO); 2) percentage fre-
quency of occurrence per food item; 3) percentage volume
in scat or stomach samples; 4) percentage biomass in scat
or stomach samples. In only the first of these measures,
values may add up to >100%.
Fig. 1. Geographical distribution of the 177 grey wolf dietary studies (triangles) included in this review. Circles or ellipses enclose the bioregional groupings of studies within the continents: North
America, Europe and Asia. Some study labels and bioregional boundaries have been moved slightly to accommodate the broad scale of mapping (1:125000000).
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Mammal Review (2016) © 2016 The Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Food habits of grey wolves
T. M. Newsome et al.
Assessing differences among and within
continents
We assessed patterns of prey species composition in grey
wolf diet among and within continents using non- metric
multidimensional scaling and analysis of similarity
(ANOSIM). We chose non- metric multidimensional scaling
because it provides a graphical representation of the results,
while ANOSIM provides a measure of dissimilarity (R)
among and within selected groupings (Quinn & Keough
2002). We used the groupings of North America, Europe
and Asia to assess differences in prey species composition
among continents, and the bioregional groupings to assess
differences in prey species composition among bioregions
within each continent. For non- metric multidimensional
scaling we used the Bray- Curtis coefficient to ordinate wolf
dietary composition in each study in two dimensions using
100 random starts. The Bray- Curtis coefficient lessens the
effects of the largest differences and is useful when compar-
ing species’ abundances or occurrences (Bray & Curtis
1957). We performed Monte Carlo randomisation to deter-
mine significance of the final stress values (a measure of
goodness- of- fit), and used ANOSIM to test the hypothesis
of no difference between two or more groups (Clarke 1993).
ANOSIM uses the mean rank similarities of samples in
different groups and of samples within the same groups
to calculate a test statistic, R. We ran 999 random permu-
tations to assess the statistical significance of the R statistic,
and also conducted pair- wise ANOSIMs to determine which
groups differed from each other.
Relationship between dietary diversity and
human footprint index
We calculated the dietary diversity of grey wolves in each
study by using Levins’ measure of niche breadth (Levins
1968), standardised on a scale from 0 to 1 by using the
following measure proposed by Hurlbert (1978):
where B
A
= Levins’ standardised niche breadth, n = the
number of possible resource states (10 broad food categories),
and B = Levins’ measure of niche breadth expressed as:
where N
j
= the number of individuals found in or using
resource state j and Y = N
j
(i.e. the total number of
individuals sampled). Levins’ B is highest when equal num-
bers of individuals occur in each resource state, indicating
indiscriminate use among resource states, and lowest when
all the individuals occur in only one resource state,
indicating maximum specialisation (Krebs 2014). We meas-
ured dietary diversity using the 10 broad food categories
as the possible resource states, and then with domestic
species and garbage excluded in case the presence of these
human- derived foods influenced the results.
To derive a measure of human disturbance for each study
area we used the global human influence index (human
footprint index) calculated by Sanderson et al. (2002). The
index has been calculated at a resolution of 1 km
2
and
ranges from 0 to a maximum of 72: higher scores indicate
greater human influence. This index was derived from four
types of data as proxies for human influence including
population density, land transformation, accessibility (roads,
rivers, and coastlines), and power infrastructure, and it has
been used as a broad measure of human disturbance in
other ecological studies (e.g. Laliberte & Ripple 2004). To
derive a single index number for each study we calculated
the average values within a 50 km radius from the centroid
of each study area by using the zonal statistics tool in the
Spatial Analyst extension of Arc View v10.2 (Environmental
Systems Research Institute Inc.: Redlands, CA, USA). The
50 km radius represents a total area of ~7500 km
2
, thus
allowing a value of human disturbance to be calculated
over a broad study area that encompasses an area the size
of multiple grey wolf home ranges (Boitani 1992, Paquet
& Carbyn 2003). We then used a linear regression to model
the relationship between dietary diversity and human foot-
print index using R (Anonymous 2008), to determine
whether dietary diversity decreases with increasing human
footprint index.
Case study in southern Europe
We used a linear regression to assess whether the occur-
rence of wild ungulates (large and medium- sized combined)
and domestic species in grey wolf diet in southern Europe
has changed over time and, in particular, whether it changed
following wild ungulate restoration programs during recent
decades (Boitani 1992) and following the conversion of
agricultural land to forested areas in some places. To do
this, we plotted the occurrence of wild ungulates and domes-
tic species in grey wolf diet against the median date (year)
in which each study was conducted. Data were selected
from the following regions: Alps, Greece, North Spain, Italy,
South Spain, and South Russia (see Fig. 1).
RESULTS
Review of grey wolf dietary studies
We inspected a total of 1903 returns during the literature
search (Appendix S1). After examining the returns and
cross- referencing, 146 individual references were considered
B
A
=
B
1
n 1
Y
2
N
2
j
6
Mammal Review (2016) © 2016 The Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
T. M. Newsome et al.
Food habits of grey wolves
relevant. Seventeen of these references provided dietary data
from multiple locations and, since we considered these to
be independent, our final data set included 177 studies
from North America (n = 77), Europe (n = 85) and Asia
(n = 15; Fig. 1, Appendix S2). The data set included dietary
contents from 94607 scat and stomach samples (average
per study = 534). Ninety- one percent of dietary data were
derived from contents in scats. Only 19 studies were con-
ducted in single seasons. The average study length was
3.5 years, and in 69% of studies, enough detail was provided
in the results to calculate %FO. Studies spanned the time
period from 1939 to 2014, but most studies (88%) were
conducted after 1970.
Grey wolf diet was dominated by large and medium- sized
wild ungulates in North America (Fig. 2), especially mule
deer Odocoileus hemionus (average percentage in
diet = 42%, n = 13 studies), elk Cervus canadensis (41%,
n = 20), white- tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus (35%,
n = 28), moose Alces alces (30%, n = 54), and caribou
Rangifer tarandus (25%, n = 19). Black- tailed deer Odocoileus
Fig. 2. The average percentage of six main food categories in the diet of grey wolves in different bioregions in each of the three continents (see Fig. 1
for locations and abbreviations). The most commonly used method to express the importance of each taxon in the diet was percentage frequency of
occurrence per sample (%FO), but data from other methods are also included here. Since each scat or stomach may contain the remains of more than
one prey taxon, the percentages as expressed by %FO may add up to >100%.
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Food habits of grey wolves
T. M. Newsome et al.
hemionus columbianus had the highest average percentage
in grey wolf diet at 74%, but this pattern was based on
results from only two studies. Similarly, the average per-
centages of bison Bison bison (44%) and garbage (21%)
were relatively high, but these were based on the results
of four and three studies, respectively. Medium- sized mam-
mals such as beavers Castor canadensis (21%) featured in
a large number of studies (n = 54). In contrast, domestic
species (including livestock) featured in only 10 studies in
North America and comprised only 8% of grey wolf diet
in those studies.
In Europe, grey wolf diet was dominated by medium-
sized wild ungulates, especially wild boar Sus scrofa (24%,
n = 76), roe deer Capreolus capreolus (24%, n = 66), and
chamois Rupicapra rupicapra (21%, n = 9). The percentage
of the diet consisting of large wild ungulates was also high,
especially moose (31%, n = 12) and red deer Cervus elaphus
(20%, n = 38). However, large wild ungulates featured in
fewer studies (n = 52) than medium- sized wild ungulates
(n = 81). Overall, domestic species formed a much higher
percentage of grey wolf diet in Europe (33%, n = 73) than
in North America (Fig. 2). Domestic pigs Sus scrofa domes-
ticus (16%, n = 19), goats Capra aegagrus hircus (17%,
n = 36), and horses Equus callabus (16%, n = 28) comprised
a higher overall percentage of grey wolf diet than sheep
Ovis aries (9%, n = 45), and cattle Bos spp. (9%, n = 40),
although there was high variation in the occurrence of domes-
tic species among studies. In comparison to North America,
grey wolves in Europe consumed fewer medium- sized mam-
mals (7%, n = 28), but garbage and fruit featured in three
times as many studies (n = 39).
Grey wolf diet in Asia was dominated by domestic spe-
cies (50%, n = 14) and medium- sized wild ungulates (36%,
n = 10; Fig. 2). Of the domestic species, the highest per-
centage was made up of poultry (38%, n = 2), followed
by goats (21%, n = 10), yak Bos grunniens (21%, n = 2),
horses (17%, n = 4), sheep (15%, n = 13), and then cattle
(12%, n = 9). Blackbuck Antilope cervicapra (53%, n = 4),
wild sheep (44%, n = 2) and gazelles Gazella subgutturosa
(31%, n = 1) were the most dominant medium- sized wild
ungulates. In some instances, rodents and medium- sized
mammals were consumed in relatively high percentages
(Fig. 2), especially civets Paguma alarvata (20%, n = 1)
and marmots Marmota spp. (12%, n = 5). Similarly, the
percentage of fruit in grey wolf diet in Asia (10%, n = 2)
was relatively high compared to that in North America
(5%, n = 7).
Differences among continents
There were significant differences in grey wolf dietary com-
position among continents (Table 1). The variable- loading
results showed that eight of the ten broad food categories
contributed significantly (P < 0.05) to the ordination axis
(Appendix S6). In particular, differences in the importance
of large wild ungulates and medium- sized mammals were
the primary features of dietary differences between North
America and the other two continents (Fig. 3). The high
percentage of domestic species in Asia was the primary
feature of dietary differences between Asia and the other
two continents, whereas medium- sized wild ungulates were
most important in the diets of wolves in Europe (Fig. 3).
Pairwise ANOSIMs supported the group positions deter-
mined by the ordination. For example, there was more
overlap in the diet of grey wolves in North America and
Europe (R = 0.23; P = 0.001) than between the diet of
grey wolves in North America and Asia (R = 0.56; P = 0.001;
Table 1).
Table 1. Non- metric multidimensional scaling and analysis of similarity
(ANOSIM) results comparing grey wolf diet among continents and
among bioregions within continents (see Fig. 1 for locations).
Trials Stress (P)* Non- metric r
2
ANOSIM R (P)
Continents, Overall 14.8% (0.059) 0.98 0.26 (0.001)
Continents
Asia vs. Europe 0.16 (0.006)
Asia vs. N. America 0.56 (0.001)
Europe vs. N. America 0.23 (0.001)
Bioregions
N. America 12.0% (0.03) 0.99 0.27 (0.001)
Europe 10.8% (<0.01) 0.99 0.39 (0.001)
Asia 9.5% (0.08) 0.99 0.34 (0.03)
*The P- value for stress is based on Monte Carlo randomisation.
Fig. 3. Non-metric multidimensional scaling ordination of grey wolf diet
by continents. Vectors displayed are significant at P < 0.07. The 95%
confidence interval ellipses are displayed for North America (NA), Europe
(EU) and Asia (AS). M.Mam = medium- sized mammal, S.Mam = small
mammal, L.Ung = large wild ungulate, M.Ung = medium- sized wild
ungulate.
8
Mammal Review (2016) © 2016 The Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
T. M. Newsome et al.
Food habits of grey wolves
Differences among bioregions within
continents
We detected significant differences in grey wolf dietary
composition among bioregions within continents (Table 1).
In North America, variable- loading results for the ordina-
tion showed that eight of the ten broad food categories
contributed significantly (P < 0.05) to the ordination axis
(Fig. 4a, Appendix S7). The importance of medium- sized
mammals, especially beavers, in East Canada (43%,
n = 12), was the primary feature of dietary differences
between East Canada and the other North American biore-
gions (Fig. 4a). In contrast, the relatively high percentage
of medium- sized wild ungulates (53%, n = 5, mainly cari-
bou), large wild ungulates (57%, n = 6, mainly muskoxen),
and rodents (13%, n = 7) in the Arctic was a key feature
of dietary differences between the Arctic and the other
North American bioregions (Fig. 4a). The Coastal bioregion
was also separated on the ordination axis, and this separa-
tion was mainly characterised by a high percentage of
medium- sized wild ungulates (71%, n = 9, primarily mule
deer, black- tailed deer and mountain goats Oreamnos
americanus) and to a lesser extent by species in the ‘Other’
food category (primarily fish and other marine species;
Appendix S7).
In Europe, variable- loading results for the ordination
showed that five of the ten broad food categories contrib-
uted significantly (P < 0.05) to the ordination axis (Table 1,
Fig. 4b, Appendix S8). In particular, the high percentage
of large wild ungulates in Scandinavia (65%, n = 3, mainly
moose) was a key feature of dietary differences between
Scandinavia and the other bioregions (Fig. 4b). In contrast,
the high percentage of medium- sized wild ungulates con-
tributed to the separation of the Alps (64%, n = 6, mainly
chamois) and Italy (60%, n = 19, mainly wild boar and
roe deer) on the ordination plot from the other bioregions
(Fig. 4b). High percentages of both medium- sized wild
ungulates (52%, n = 26, mainly roe deer and wild boar)
and large wild ungulates (41%, n = 26, mainly red deer
and moose) contributed to the separation of the Central
Europe bioregion from the others (Fig. 4b). In contrast,
high percentages of domestic species contributed to the
separation of North Spain (66%, n = 17, mainly cattle,
horse and goat) and South Russia (71%, n = 2, mainly
pigs and cattle) from the other bioregions on the ordina-
tion plot (Fig. 4b).
In Asia, there were significant differences in grey wolf
dietary composition among bioregions (Table 1), although
few studies were included in the analysis (n = 15). Only
four of the ten broad food categories contributed sig-
nificantly (P < 0.05) to the ordination axis (Fig. 4c,
Appendix S9). India was separated on the ordination
because relatively high numbers of medium- sized wild
Fig. 4. Non- metric multidimensional scaling ordination of grey wolf diet
in (a) North America, (b) Europe, and (c) Asia (see Fig. 1 for locations and
abbreviations). Vectors displayed are significant at P < 0.07. The 95%
confidence interval ellipses are displayed. Bioregions with a sample size
of one (YS, Kyrgyzstan and China), or two (Sth Russia) were excluded
from the analyses, but their positions on the ordination axis are shown.
Positions for all Asian studies are shown in addition to 95% bioregional
confidence ellipses, since n 5 for all bioregions. M.Mam = medium-
sized mammal, S.Mam = small mammal, L.Ung = large wild ungulate,
M.Ung = medium- sized wild ungulate, Dom = domestic.
9
Mammal Review (2016) © 2016 The Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Food habits of grey wolves
T. M. Newsome et al.
ungulates were eaten (53% of the diet, n = 4, mainly
blackbuck). In the other bioregions, the diet of grey wolves
was dominated by small mammals, rodents or domestic
species (Fig. 4c).
Dietary diversity and human footprint index
There was no evidence that grey wolf dietary diversity
increased or decreased with human footprint index, based
on a linear regression model (r
2
= 0.002, F
1,175
= 0.47,
P = 0.49; Fig. 5a). This result occurred irrespective of
whether or not domestic species and garbage were excluded
from the dietary diversity calculations (r
2
= 0.02,
F
1,175
= 3.65, P = 0.06; Fig. 5b).
Case study in southern Europe
When grey wolf diet was assessed throughout southern
Europe, there was evidence that the importance of wild
ungulates in grey wolf diet has increased over time
(r
2
= 0.08, F
1,50
= 4.82, P = 0.03; Fig. 6a). This trend
corresponded to a decline in domestic species in the diet
over time, although the linear regression was not significant
(r
2
= 0.04, F
1,51
= 2.16, P = 0.14; Fig. 6b).
DISCUSSION
Humans have triggered waves of animal extinctions and
driven biodiversity loss and declines that are comparable
to previous mass extinction events during Earth’s history
(Barnosky et al. 2011, Dirzo et al. 2014, Ceballos et al.
2015). However, species’ vulnerability to extinction are
highly variable (Isaac & Cowlishaw 2004), and different
biological traits, such as ecological flexibility and resilience,
may provide a degree of protection from external threats
and thus allow populations to recover rapidly from deple-
tion (Cardillo et al. 2004). Grey wolf populations are
recovering in parts of North America and Europe
(Chapron et al. 2014, Ripple et al. 2014), and the species
has managed to persist in human- dominated landscapes
Fig. 5. Grey wolf dietary diversity plotted against an index of human
influence (human footprint index). In (a), dietary diversity is based on the
percentages of all prey noted in wolf dietary studies incorporated in this
review. In (b), dietary diversity is based on wild prey only, i.e. excluding
domestic species and garbage. Human footprint index is based on
Sanderson et al. (2002) and is calculated as the average value within a
50 km radius of each study.
Fig. 6. Average percentages of (a) large and medium- sized wild ungulates
and (b) domestic species in grey wolf diet, plotted against the median
date (year) in which the studies were conducted. Data were taken from
studies conducted in the southern European regions: Alps, Greece, North
Spain, Italy, South Spain, and South Russia (see Fig. 1 for locations). The
most commonly used method to express the importance of each taxon
in the diet was percentage frequency of occurrence per sample (%FO),
but data from other methods are also included here. Since each scat or
stomach may contain the remains of more than one prey taxon, the
percentages as expressed by %FO may add up to >100%.
10
Mammal Review (2016) © 2016 The Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
T. M. Newsome et al.
Food habits of grey wolves
(Chapron et al. 2014). Accordingly, it is perhaps unsur-
prising that our review of 177 studies from North America,
Europe and Asia demonstrates that grey wolves can survive
on a wide array of foodstuffs, or that we found clear
dietary differences among and within continents (Figs 3
and 4). Moreover, the unexpected finding that grey wolf
dietary diversity, both with and without considering
domestic species and garbage, is not lower in areas heavily
modified by humans supports the idea that grey wolves
have flexible foraging strategies and can live in a range
of ecological conditions, including areas with high densi-
ties of humans (Fig. 5; e.g. >150 inhabitants per km
2
;
Chapron et al. 2014). Nevertheless, our analysis identifies
several knowledge gaps and there are many challenges to
developing a sustainable conservation model for grey
wolves throughout the globe, particularly in human-
dominated landscapes. Below, we highlight several novel
insights about the implications of global information on
the feeding ecology of grey wolves for conservation and
management.
In North America, large wild ungulates and medium-
sized mammals dominated grey wolf diet, whereas in Europe
and Asia, the diet was dominated by medium- sized wild
ungulates and domestic species, respectively (Fig. 3). The
results from North America and Europe support the
assumption that grey wolves are obligate carnivores whose
use of prey generally depends on the availability of wild
ungulates (Paquet & Carbyn 2003). In Asia, the abundance
of wild ungulates is generally lower than in North America
and Europe (Ripple et al. 2015) so the grey wolves’ reliance
on domestic species was expected. Maintaining and restor-
ing wild ungulate populations should thus remain a priority
for grey wolf conservation (Ripple et al. 2014). The key
threats to wild ungulates include un- sustainable hunting
for meat by humans, competition with livestock, and habitat
loss (Ripple et al. 2015). Therefore, a suite of initiatives is
required to conserve wild ungulates adequately, including
changes to hunting harvests (Jonzén et al. 2013), broader
protection of favourable habitats to reduce the amount of
land converted to agriculture (Ripple et al. 2015), and where
necessary, reintroductions of locally extinct wild ungulate
species (Boitani 1992).
A possible consequence of wild ungulate population
depletion is that grey wolves will consume more human-
provided foods, including garbage if it is accessible, and
domestic species if they are vulnerable to predation. This
putative relationship is supported by the large amount of
garbage and domestic animal species in grey wolf diet in
Asia and some parts of Europe (Fig. 2). For instance, in
the Yazd province in central Iran, where there is a mod-
erately low abundance of wild prey, grey wolves fed almost
exclusively on farmed chicken, domestic goats and garbage
(Tourani et al. 2014). In central Greece, where roe deer
are very rare, domestic pigs, goats, and sheep dominated
grey wolf diet (Migli et al. 2005). Similarly, free- ranging
mountain ponies are the main prey of wolves in Western
Galicia (Spain), where wild ungulates (roe deer and wild
boar) are absent or their density is quite low (López- Bao
et al. 2013). Prey switching to domestic species by grey
wolves has also been demonstrated in Belarus, where a
sixfold increase in livestock consumption was recorded when
wild ungulate densities were at a low level (Sidorovich et al.
2003). These studies, among others, highlight that domestic
prey consumption might be related to the density and
diversity of wild ungulates, including both common and
threatened species. Indeed, our case study in southern
Europe suggests that consumption of livestock by grey
wolves has decreased over time, coincident with an increase
in their consumption of large and medium- sized wild ungu-
lates (Fig. 6).
Although correlative, similar results to ours from south-
ern Europe have been used to support the idea that grey
wolves prefer wild prey over domestic species; see Meriggi
and Lovari (1996). However, some caution is required when
interpreting the result of our analysis and that of Meriggi
and Lovari (1996). Firstly, the low r- squared values in our
analysis indicate a relatively weak relationship between the
percentage of wild ungulates/domestic species in grey wolf
diet and the median date (year) in which the studies were
conducted (Fig. 6). Such variability could reflect differences
in local conditions between studies. Secondly, neither our
analysis nor that of Meriggi and Lovari (1996) involved
measuring grey wolf depredation on livestock over the
period of interest. This is important to note, because domes-
tic prey consumption as revealed by dietary studies does
not necessarily reflect the level of conflict, i.e. the true or
perceived economic loss. Thirdly, neither analysis controlled
for the accessibility of wild versus domestic prey, both of
which are influenced by independent factors. Indeed, pat-
terns of livestock depredation cannot be described only in
terms of ecological predator- prey dynamics but must be
analysed in relation to local husbandry techniques. In the
absence of data on these aspects and an adequate sampling
scheme to test the hypotheses, it is not legitimate to draw
firm conclusions on the relationship between wild and
domestic prey frequency in grey wolf diet. Therefore, future
research needs to be focussed on whether restoring wild
ungulates will reduce human- wolf conflicts, to avoid a sce-
nario where increases in wild ungulate availability result
in grey wolf population growth or increased presence of
wolves attracted by potential prey (Treves et al. 2004, Bradley
& Pletscher 2005), and then in turn, increased depredation
on livestock.
Clearly, a key factor that influences livestock depredation
by grey wolves is the availability and vulnerability of the
livestock themselves, which is strongly influenced by
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Food habits of grey wolves
T. M. Newsome et al.
livestock type (cattle, sheep, goat) and husbandry tech-
niques. By implication, livestock producers could promote
healthy wild ungulate populations, in at least some cases,
by implementing husbandry techniques that reduce the
availability and vulnerability of cattle and other livestock
to grey wolves and other predators. Non- lethal methods
such as the use of fladry, guardian animals and electric,
audio or visual deterrents have, for example, been shown
to deter grey wolves from livestock or other food sources
(Musiani et al. 2003, Shivik et al. 2003). Approaches that
maintain or enhance range conditions, such as livestock
rotation, could also indirectly benefit wild ungulates by
increasing forage quality. These practices come at a cost
to the livestock producer, so they often require financial
incentives and investment in public outreach to create
sociopolitical support (Chapron et al. 2014). For example,
in 1996 the Swedish government implemented a
performance- payment strategy based on the number of
carnivore reproductions and/or the regular and occasional
occurrence of large carnivores (Zabel & Holm- Müller 2008).
Such pre- emptive payments need to be high enough to
ensure full compensation for stock losses, and the potential
for abuse of the system means that monitoring is required,
but this initiative could be a viable solution for wolf- livestock
conflicts in other parts of the world.
If grey wolf predation on livestock does change in rela-
tion to the availability of wild ungulates, it may be necessary
to consider whether there is adequate supplementary prey
available. Supplementary prey can be defined as prey spe-
cies that comprise major elements of the diet at times, but
contribute minimally at others and are generally ancillary
to staple prey (Newsome et al. 1983). Prey that supplement
grey wolf diet during wild ungulate shortages (or while
grey wolves are denning and using rendezvous sites) include
beavers, lagomorphs, microtine rodents, birds, fish and, on
occasion, other carnivores (Paquet & Carbyn 2003). The
importance of supplementary prey to grey wolves has been
acknowledged in previous dietary reviews (e.g. Okarma
1995, Paquet & Carbyn 2003, Peterson & Ciucci 2003,
Zlatanova 2014). Our analysis offers several insights into
the importance of supplementary prey in the diet of grey
wolves across the globe. For example, in East Canada,
medium- sized mammals (mainly beavers) comprised 43%
of grey wolf diet on average, and variation in the relative
importance of this prey group was the primary feature of
dietary differences among bioregions within North America
(Fig. 4a). Similarly, the occurrence of species in the ‘Other’
food category (notably fish and other marine species) was
close (P = 0.07) to being a significant contributor to the
differences in grey wolf diet among bioregions in North
America; grey wolves consumed fish and/or seals Phoca
spp. in most studies (n = 8) we included from the Coastal
bioregion. Indeed, when salmon Oncorhynchus spp. become
available, they may occur in up to 70% of grey wolf scats,
making them important supplementary prey, or even staple
prey depending on definitions (Darimont et al. 2008). In
Europe, smaller prey (including medium- sized mammals,
small mammals, rodents and birds) did not contribute
significantly to variation on the ordination axis (Fig. 4b,
Appendix S8); a result that stems from the relatively small
amount of supplementary prey consumed by grey wolves
throughout Europe (Fig. 2). In contrast, grey wolves con-
sumed relatively large amounts of rodents in Asia (Figs 2
and 4c), but this pattern was accompanied by high percent-
ages of domestic species consumed in five out of the six
bioregions assessed (Fig. 2).
The lack of supplementary prey in some regions raises
several concerns for grey wolf conservation. For example,
the dietary results from the Mexican Wolf bioregion in
North America, and to a lesser extent from Yellowstone
National Park, indicate that grey wolves in these areas rarely
consume small prey species (Fig. 2). A possible explanation
is that these wolves selected for larger prey over all other
available species. However, an alternative explanation is that
the abundance of small supplementary prey is low in these
study systems. In support of the latter explanation, Brown
(2002) indicated that even rabbits and hares are in short
supply, leaving only cattle and elk as potential prey for
Mexican wolves Canis lupus baileyi. Rabbit harvests in
Arizona and Colorado have fallen precipitously in recent
decades (Ripple et al. 2013), and extremely low rabbit den-
sities were found recently in an Arizona survey (Frary &
Ingraldi 2011). The lack of small and medium- sized mam-
mals in some western states (USA) may be due at least in
part to coyotes Canis latrans preying on these animals,
especially where coyote abundance is likely to have increased
after grey wolf extirpation in the early 20th century (by
the 1930s; Ripple et al. 2013). With respect to fish as sup-
plementary prey, there have been widespread declines in
native salmon stocks over the last century in California,
Oregon, Idaho, and Washington due to habitat loss, inad-
equate passage and flows caused by hydropower, agriculture,
logging and other developments (Nehlsen et al. 1991).
Conversion of agricultural land for livestock grazing has
also severely affected plant and animal communities; studies
indicate that these domestic species have had numerous
and widespread negative effects on western USA ecosystems
(Beschta et al. 2013). Restoring supplementary prey species
should thus be a management priority in those areas where
wolves prey on a very narrow spectrum of large wild ungu-
late species in order to buffer against potential variation
in main prey abundance (Fig. 2). However, it may also be
necessary to consider other factors, including changes in
environmental and agricultural policies, grey wolf pack sizes,
social dynamics and even the prey preferences of different
individual grey wolves. Such factors could influence whether
12
Mammal Review (2016) © 2016 The Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
T. M. Newsome et al.
Food habits of grey wolves
grey wolves select supplementary prey, even during periods
of wild ungulate declines.
Although it is not possible from our analyses to assess
fully and precisely why grey wolf diet varies among and
within continents, our results can be interpreted with con-
fidence for several reasons. First, our sample size was large
(n = 177 studies) in comparison to that of similar dietary
reviews (e.g. Bojarska & Selva 2012). Second, the studies
we reviewed were conducted under many different ecological
conditions (Figs 1 and 5). Finally, our analytical approach
ensured that our results were not biased by sampling length,
season of study, source of dietary material, analytical method,
or sample size (Appendices S4 and S5). However, we
acknowledge that rigorous attempts to determine wolf pref-
erence for any kind of prey can be fraught with methodo-
logical problems (Peterson & Ciucci 2003), especially because
scat and stomach contents do not necessarily reflect preda-
tion; indeed, scat and stomach contents may also reflect
scavenging of wild and especially domestic prey carcasses
(Cuesta et al. 1991, Ciucci et al. 1996). As such, if predation
is assessed solely through food habits it could misrepresent
actual predation rates (Wilson & Wolkovich 2011). In addi-
tion, in most studies we reviewed (69%), %FO was used,
a measure that has some disadvantages over alternative
analytical techniques (Klare et al. 2011). For example, %FO
can over- represent small prey items, whereas volume and
biomass calculations can be influenced by varying scat sizes
(Klare et al. 2011). Differential digestion of body parts may
also introduce error in the estimation of prey consumed,
although %FO is useful for documenting rare prey items
(Klare et al. 2011). Finally, it was impossible for us to select
study site locations randomly within each continent, further
adding to the level of bias.
Despite those potential shortfalls, it is abundantly clear
from our results that grey wolves have extremely flexible
foraging capabilities, and that they eat a wide range of prey
whether or not humans are around. This potentially gives
grey wolves a survival advantage under global change (Clavel
et al. 2011). However, our findings have broader implica-
tions when considering the ecological relationships between
wolves and their environment. Recent studies, for example,
suggest that grey wolves can exert strong top- down effects
on ecosystems by suppressing their main prey and lower
order competitors (Ripple et al. 2014). There is growing
concern, however, that humans are modifying the ecological
role of predators, especially where humans provide sup-
plementary foods including garbage, livestock, carcasses,
and crops (Newsome et al. 2015). Most studies assessing
the ecological role of grey wolves have been conducted in
National Parks or wilderness areas, where grey wolves feed
primarily on large wild ungulates. Much less is known about
the ecological role of grey wolves when they feed on other
kinds of foods.
It is possible that the availability of human- provided
foods could subtly alter the ecological relationships of grey
wolves, both intra- specifically (e.g. pack size, dispersal, den-
sity) and inter- specifically (e.g. wild- prey relationships,
hunting behaviour, trophic interactions, and bottom- up and
top- down patterns), relative to those in comparatively closed
systems with low or no human interference. For example,
the provision of human- provided foods influences the
movements, activity, dietary preferences, group sizes, and
population dynamics of dingo populations in Australia
(Newsome et al. 2013a, b, c, 2014). Grey wolves also appear
commonly to take advantage of human- provided foods;
livestock and/or garbage is present in the diet of grey wolves
in 66% of studies in this review. Therefore, conservation
of grey wolves in places where anthropogenic subsidies are
used heavily (e.g. parts of Europe and Asia) may not neces-
sarily result in the expected ecological services that grey
wolves can provide. While this does require further inves-
tigation (Wilson & Wolkovich 2011, López- Bao et al. 2015b,
Newsome & Ripple 2015), minimising human- driven prey
accessibility should be incorporated into management strat-
egies that aim to avoid conflicts and to prevent alteration
of ecological and evolutionary processes (see also Wilmers
et al. 2003).
CONCLUSION
One of the biggest obstacles to grey wolf recovery is the
concern about wolf impacts on livestock and subsequent
persecution. Our results show that future research needs
to be focussed on ascertaining whether maintaining healthy
populations of wild prey, both small and large, could assist
in conserving grey wolf populations, while also reducing
their impacts on livestock. However, the ability of grey
wolves to survive on diets consisting of rodents, birds, small
mammals and garbage does suggest that another obstacle
to their recovery may not be lack of habitat or prey, but
societal acceptance (Dressel et al. 2015). Therefore, it is
critical that we increase our understanding of grey wolf
foraging ecology in a broader range of habitats, so that
human attitudes and management decisions can be based
on scientific knowledge. Without such knowledge, manage-
ment strategies for grey wolves may continue to be focussed
on lowering perceived risks to humans and their activities,
rather than also incorporating the benefits of grey wolves
to human society and the environment (sensu Bruskotter
& Wilson 2014).
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This work was funded or supported by: 1) The Australian-
American Fulbright Commission; 2) the Australian Research
Council; 3) the National Science Foundation; and 4) a ‘Juan
13
Mammal Review (2016) © 2016 The Mammal Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Food habits of grey wolves
T. M. Newsome et al.
de la Cierva’ research contract from the Spanish Ministry
of Economy and Competitiveness. We thank Dr Julian
Olden at the University of Washington for consultation on
the multivariate statistics design.
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SUPPORTING INFORMATION
Additional supporting information may be found in the
online version of this article at the publisher’s web-site.
Appendix S1. Search terms used to identify grey wolf dietary
studies. Country name refers to the 69 countries within
grey wolf range according to spatial data from the 2009
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Appendix S2. Full list of studies included in this review.
Appendix S3. Broad food categories used to summarise
the diet of grey wolves. Average adult body sizes were
obtained from the PanTHERIA data base (http://esapubs.
org/archive/ecol/E090/184/#data).
Appendix S4. Mantel test results comparing a full data set
to a subset of data. The full data set incorporated the
average dietary contents values for all studies in each biore-
gional grouping in each continent. The subset of data only
included studies in which %FO was used, dietary material
was derived from scat contents, >25 scats were sampled,
and scats were sampled in multiple seasons and years.
Dietary contents values were based on 10 broad food cat-
egories (see Appendix S3).
Appendix S5. Results of the multivariate linear models test-
ing for an effect of different sampling variables on the diet
of grey wolves at the individual study site level in each
continent. Dietary contents values were based on 10 broad
food categories (see Appendix S3). Numbers reported refer
to the overall test statistics (analysis of variance with 1000
re- sampling iterations). Response variables included sam-
pling length (in years), season (summer, autumn, winter,
spring), source of dietary material (scat or stomach), ana-
lytical method (frequency, volume, or biomass calculation),
and sample size (number of scats or stomachs). Note that
all papers from Asia had the same source of dietary material
(scats) so the test is not applicable (n/a) to this variable.
Appendix S6. Dissimilarity boxplots and variable loading
results for grey wolf broad food categories at the continental
level.
Appendix S7. Dissimilarity boxplots and variable- loading
results for grey wolf broad food categories in North America.
Appendix S8. Dissimilarity boxplots and variable- loading
results for grey wolf broad food categories in Europe.
Appendix S9. Dissimilarity boxplots and variable- loading
results for grey wolf broad food categories in Asia.
... Its diet is not as diverse as jackals. Wolves have 5 to 10 broad food categories which essentially comprise their staple diet (Newsome et al., 2016) which are more or less available during the whole year. Wolf is also apex predator in ecosystems they inhabit and studies showed that even their ranging behaviour, activity, and diet are altered by subsidies from anthropogenic resources (Petroelje et al., 2019), so their functional ecological roles are altered and consequently derives alteration of many other ecosystem processes (Newsome et al., 2015). ...
... Wolf is also apex predator in ecosystems they inhabit and studies showed that even their ranging behaviour, activity, and diet are altered by subsidies from anthropogenic resources (Petroelje et al., 2019), so their functional ecological roles are altered and consequently derives alteration of many other ecosystem processes (Newsome et al., 2015). In Europe, the wolf diet is dominated by medium-sized wild ungulates (especially wild boar and roe deer) although the consumption of domestic species is frequent and much higher than in North America (Newsome et al., 2016). In comparison to North America, grey wolves in Europe consume fewer medium-sized mammals but garbage and fruit feature in three times as many studies (Newsome et al., 2016). ...
... In Europe, the wolf diet is dominated by medium-sized wild ungulates (especially wild boar and roe deer) although the consumption of domestic species is frequent and much higher than in North America (Newsome et al., 2016). In comparison to North America, grey wolves in Europe consume fewer medium-sized mammals but garbage and fruit feature in three times as many studies (Newsome et al., 2016). Similar findings are also obtained in Serbia. ...
... Viewing wolf diet in relation to optimal foraging can explain why the diet of wolves in IRNP diverged from previous studies. In North America and Europe large and medium-size ungulates comprise >60% of wolf diet by frequency of occurrence (Carbone et al. , 1999;Theuerkauf 2009;Derbridge et al. , 2012;Newsome et al ., 2016). In contrast, in IRNP ungulates comprised only 26% of the wolf diet by FO. ...
... Contrary to our prediction that beaver would be an important secondary and temporally variable food item, wolves on Isle Royale consumed beaver at high rates throughout the ice-free season. The high amount of beaver consumption we observed is atypical for IRNP (Thurber and Peterson, 1993) and wolves in general (Newsome et al. , 2016) and likely reflects high beaver availability and vulnerability in conjunction with weak wolf pack formation. Beaver densities appear to be at historic high levels with 1 colony/km 2 (Smith and Peterson, 2021) compared with a mean of 0.28 colony/km 2 from 1962-2008 when beaver comprised only 14% of biomass of the wolf diet in IRNP (Romanski, 2010;Gable et al. , 2017). ...
... Moose comprised most of the biomass ingested by wolves, which supported our predictions, however, moose comprised less of the wolf diet than we expected. In the Great Lakes Region of North America, ungulates comprise >80% of the wolf diet and historically (1975)(1976)(1977)(1978)(1979)(1980)(1981)(1982)(1983)(1984)(1985)(1986)(1987)(1988)(1989) 85-95% of biomass consumed by IRNP wolves (Thurber and Peterson, 1993;Newsome et al. , 2016). This shift in wolf diet may be a result of high beaver density, moose age class structure, or lack of pack formation. ...
Preprint
Wolves (Canis lupus) can exert top-down pressure and shape ecological communities through selective predation of ungulates and beavers (Castor Canadensis). Considering their ability to shape communities through predation, understanding wolf foraging decisions is critical to predicting their ecosystem level effects. Specifically, if wolves are optimal foragers, consumers that optimize tradeoffs between cost and benefits of prey acquisition, changes in these factors may lead to prey switching or negative-density dependent selection with potential consequences for community stability. For wolves, factors affecting cost and benefits include prey vulnerability, risk, reward, and availability which can vary temporally. We described wolf diet in by frequency of occurrence and percent biomass and characterized diet in relation to optimal foraging using prey remains found in wolf scats on Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, USA during May–October 2019–2020. We used logistic regression to estimate prey consumption over time. We predicted prey with temporal variation in cost (vulnerability and/or availability) such as adult and calf moose (Alces alces) and beaver to vary in wolves’ diet. We analyzed 206 scats and identified 62% of remains as beaver, 26% as and moose, and 12% as other (birds, smaller mammals, and wolves). Adult moose were more likely to occur in wolf scat in May, when moose are in poor condition following winter. Similarly, the occurrence of moose calves peaked June–mid July following parturition but before their vulnerability declined as they matured. In contrast, beaver occurrence in wolf scat did not change over time, possibly reflecting the importance of low handling cost prey items for recently introduced lone or paired wolves. Our results demonstrate that wolf diet is plastic and responsive to temporal changes in prey acquisition cost as predicted by optimal foraging theory. Temporal fluctuation in diet may influence wolves’ ecological role if prey respond to increased predation risk by altering their foraging or breeding behavior.
... Virtually all members of the genus Canis, however, are incredibly adaptable and opportunistic. This is particularly evident when considering coyotes' or red foxes' successful colonization of urban environments (Bateman and Fleming 2012;Gehrt et al. 2011), but it is also evident in cases of wolves living off human-generated resources (Newsome et al. 2016). ...
... For example, one study showed that while the presence of domestic ungulates on high-altitude pastures during summer (May-October) influenced wolf diet (summer 19.0%, winter 0.3%) in the Italian Alps, wolves still preferred wild ungulates despite the higher density of domestic livestock (Gazzola et al. 2005;Imbert et al. 2016; see also Meriggi and Lovari 1996). Other studies have found that consumption of livestock by grey wolves decreased over time, coincident with an increase in relying on wild ungulates in southern Italy (Newsome et al. 2016). However, these data need to be taken with caution since it is likely dependent on the protection measures taken by the livestock owners and maybe herd size. ...
... Despite little being known about wolves living in more urbanized environments (Kuijper et al. 2016), there is emerging recognition that relying on anthropogenic foods can dramatically alter ecology and behaviour of wildlife, including wolves (Newsome et al. 2016;Newsome et al. 2017). It has been suggested that the availability of anthropogenic foods could alter aspects such as evolved predator-prey relationships, hunting behaviour, trophic interactions, and bottom-up and top-down processes (Dorresteijn et al. 2015;Newsome et al. 2015) as well as many aspects of sociality (Newsome et al. 2017). ...
Chapter
This short review summarizes aspects of the socio-ecology of wolves that might be relevant to understand dog-wolf differences in behaviour and cognition. It highlights the cooperative nature of wolves that usually live in family packs, raise their pups together, and jointly participate in hunting, as well as defending their territories and carcasses. However, the size and stability of family packs and the dynamics of their cooperative interactions, while still under investigation, are thought to be influenced by a number of socio-ecological factors such as the degree of saturated habitats, prey species availability, habitat disturbance, as well as kin selection and territory inheritance.
... They are highly adapted to a wide range of habitats worldwide (Boitani et al., 2018). Wolves in Northern America largely depend on large ungulates to medium-sized mammals, whereas in Europe, their predominant diet is mediumsized wild ungulates (Newsome et al., 2016). However, in Asia, the unavailability of wild prey alters their diet pattern toward domestic prey and human-subsidised food (Newsome et al., 2016;Petroelje et al., 2019). ...
... Wolves in Northern America largely depend on large ungulates to medium-sized mammals, whereas in Europe, their predominant diet is mediumsized wild ungulates (Newsome et al., 2016). However, in Asia, the unavailability of wild prey alters their diet pattern toward domestic prey and human-subsidised food (Newsome et al., 2016;Petroelje et al., 2019). Anthropogenic food subsidies shift their ecological role, and dependency on livestock or carcases increases the chance of human-wildlife conflict, especially in human-modified landscapes (Ciucci et al., 2020;Kuijper et al., 2016). ...
Thesis
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The Indian wolf is a Schedule I species in the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. It is now considered an Evolutionary Significant Unit (A adaptive variation significantly important for conservation) (Hennelly et al., 2021). Since they survive predominantly in a human-dominated landscape (Habib et al., 2021; Habib & Kumar, 2007), they face immense survival threats due to habitat degradation and man-animal conflict (Agarwala et al., 2010). Their population status has remained unassessed over the years due to difficulties associated with the population estimation of this visually cryptic long-ranging species (Cozzi et al., 2021). A few studies have suggested that around 1000 to 2000 (Sillero-Zubiri et al., 2004) wolves are left in India, but those are rough estimates without statistical support. Therefore, a non-invasive statistical tool is required to estimate this visually cryptic species. Since the howling survey is considered the most efficient monitoring tool for this visually cryptic species (Harrington & Mech, 1982), my study aimed to standardise a statistical tool to estimate the population of Indian wolves based on their howl. I have started my work with a single point of reference on Indian wolf vocalisation – a comparative study of Indian wolf howls with a few other subspecies (Hennelly et al., 2017). I began the study with howling survey responses and opportunistic recordings from captive and nine free-ranging packs of Indian wolves. Different harmonic call types were characterised using an unsupervised statistical tool and defined to generate baseline information about the vocal characteristics of the Indian wolf. Through unsupervised clustering, I found four distinct vocalisations using 270 recorded calls (Average Silhouette width Si = 0.598), which include howls and howl-barks (N = 238), whimper (N = 2), social squeak (N = 28), and whine (N = 2). Indian wolf howls have an average mean fundamental frequency of 422 Hz (±126), similar to other wolf subspecies. The whimper showed the highest frequency modulation (37.296±4.601) and the highest mean fundamental frequency (1708±524 Hz) compared to other call types. Less information is available on the third vocalisation type, i.e. ‘Social squeak’ or ‘talking’ (Mean fundamental frequency = 461±83 Hz), which is highly variable (coefficient of frequency variation = 18.778±3.587). Lastly, I identified the whine, which had a mean fundamental frequency of 906Hz (±242) and was similar to the Italian wolf (979±109 Hz). The study highlighted how ‘social squeak’ can be misidentified with the howl. They can be differentiated through their frequency modulation and duration. Social squeaks (x̅ = 3.87s) are generally shorter than howl (x̅ = 5.214s). My study on the characterisation of the harmonic vocal repertoire provides a first step in understanding the function and contextual use of vocalisations in the Indian wolf. Studies over the years found that wolf howls contain individual-specific information (Fentress, 1967; Root-Gutteridge et al., 2014b, 2014a; Tooze et al., 1990). But identifying the unknown individual from their howls had remained challenging over the years, without which howl could not be used in Capture-Mark-Recapture studies (Marques et al., 2013; Stevenson et al., 2015). By understanding the importance of howl identification to an individual in population estimation, I trained a supervised model using known howls to identify howls to individuals. I verified the model with a set of unknown howls (unknown to the model). In this supervised classification, I achieved 97.9% accuracy in identifying known howls (trained dataset) and 75% accuracy in identifying unknown howls (test dataset). For the first time, the unknown wolf howls were classified successfully. Although the achievement is very significant in wolf vocalisation research, further accuracy is required for using them in the population estimation model. Training the model with more howls and verifying them with a different set of test data might increase its reliability. For these, a continuous recording of captive individuals and recordings from free-ranging collared wolves for an extended period is essential. The howling behaviour of Indian wolves has never been studied. Therefore, understanding the howling behaviour of the Indian wolf was the key to designing a howl survey methodology for population estimation. I studied the howling behaviour of collared and non-collared free-ranging wolves through the response pattern of the active howl survey. I found a disparity in their howl response - based on the distance to villages. In the low disturbed East-Maharashtra (EM), wolves mostly avoid responding to howling surveys (HS) if done within 1200 meters of villages [Response Rate(RR)=0.03±0.021], but they do respond once it is done far from villages (>1200m)[RR=0.226±0.075]. In high human dense West-Maharashtra (WM), wolves showed high RR within 1200 meters from the villages (RR=0.148±0.031). But the RR within 500 meters from villages is less as howling near villages might owe to easy detection. The collared wolf data showed significantly high RR (0.635±0.067) in their home-range core but low RR if the core area is close to a village. Therefore howling too close to the village is disadvantageous, although their tolerance for responding to HS has increased in the human-dominated landscape. The extent of the village may increase further with development, which will leave fewer areas for the wolf to defend territory with a long-range howl. The wolves might behaviourally adapt to a human-modified landscape by reducing their howling intensity. Adaptation in a fragmented habitat may save the wolves from extinction, but the repercussions of the fundamental behavioural alteration might adversely impact wolf behaviour and the ecological cascade. Whereas ecologists are mainly concerned with the extinction of species, the study highlights the vulnerability of fundamental behaviour of a keystone species attributed to human-induced contemporary evolution. Based on the vocalisation behaviour, I found that a howl survey should be done during their pre-denning season (November-December). Additionally, wind speed is low during this period. The best grid size for a systematic grid howl sampling is 1.7 × 1.7 km2. A 30watt speaker should be used for an active howl survey with 3-5 trials. This study provides the crucial guideline for a howling survey in Indian conditions. Based on these criteria, a howl survey was designed for four districts of Maharashtra. Maximum Entropy Probably Distribution (Maxent) was used for delineating the potential wolf habitats, and 12250 km2 effective wolf habitat was found. A newly triple observer-based howl survey method was introduced, I obtained a relatively high howl response (seven out of twenty-five howl surveys) in randomly selected grids. I used ‘redetection’ in different points in space instead of using individual ‘recapture’ with time. Through my pilot study, I found Indian wolf density is 3.65 individuals/100 km2 with a lower limit of 1.67 to an upper limit of 5.63 (95% CI). Although I do not have data on the population density of Indian wolves to compare, the data and its error range are comparable with the population density of Iberian wolves, i.e., 2.55 wolves/100 km2 (95% CI = 1.87–3.51) estimated by DNA (scat) sampling by López-Bao et al. (2018). The standard error might decrease further with an increase in sampling effort through the active howl survey. This methodology can be a guideline for using the active howling survey in the population estimation of wolves globally. Since wolf howls also possess individual information, incorporating this information in the future will help reduce the bias and heterogeneity in the population estimation model. Incorporating individual identification in the population estimation model will help generate additional details such as animal survival and home range. Regular population monitoring will help conserve and save this cryptic species before its population falls below a recovery level. Therefore, the study is a stepping stone towards using bioacoustics to estimate animal density and play a significant role in global wolf conservation.
... Marine subsidies to large mammalian predators have the potential to be particularly influential given the strong effect apex predators have on their herbivore prey with consequences for vegetation structure and composition. Although wolves (Canis lupus) are considered to be obligate ungulate predators (9) with population densities consistently linked to ungulate density (9, 10), they display a high degree of dietary plasticity and consume a variety of alternative prey (10) including marine resources (11)(12)(13)(14)(15). If marine resources are abundant and predictable in space and time, and do not present a risk to obtain, they may allow canid populations to persist despite low abundance of primary prey, which may in effect uncouple their numerical response from ungulate abundance (16)(17)(18) leading to apparent competition through increased ungulate predation (19). ...
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Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) and wolves (Canis lupus) are two apex predators with strong and cascading effects on ecosystem structure and function. After decades of recovery from near extirpation, their ranges now overlap, allowing sea otters and wolves to interact for the first time in the scientific record. We intensively studied wolves during 2015–2021 in an island system colonized by sea otters in the 2000s and by wolves in 2013. After wolf colonization, we quantified shifts in foraging behavior with DNA metabarcoding of 689 wolf scats and stable isotope analyses, both revealing a dietary switch from Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus), the terrestrial in situ primary prey, to sea otters. Here we show an unexpected result of the reintroduction and restoration of sea otters, which became an abundant marine subsidy for wolves following population recovery. The availability of sea otters allowed wolves to persist and continue to reproduce, subsequently nearly eliminating deer. Genotypes from 390 wolf scats and telemetry data from 13 wolves confirmed island fidelity constituting one of the highest known wolf population densities and upending standardly accepted wolf density predictions based on ungulate abundance. Whereas marine subsidies in other systems are generally derived from lower trophic levels, here an apex nearshore predator became a key prey species and linked nearshore and terrestrial food webs in a recently deglaciated and rapidly changing ecosystem. These results underscore that species restoration may serve as an unanticipated nutrient pathway for recipient ecosystems even resulting in cross-boundary subsidy cascades.
... S3). We did not consider medium-sized mammals (e.g., beaver, badger), small mammals, rodents, or birds as these were found to contribute minimally to wolf diet in Europe (Newsome et al., 2016). ...
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European wolf populations are currently exposed to distinct sources of anthropogenic disturbance and mortality that can cause dispersal limitations and lead to isolation. The identification of factors that act as complete or partial barriers to movement, dispersal, or gene flow contribute to foster connectivity between populations. We reviewed the existing literature (N = 32) on wolf population barriers to 1) identify main barriers to connectivity; 2) outline different methodologies; and 3) highlight knowledge gaps. Based on the reviewed studies that empirically tested barrier occurrence (N=14), we compiled data on wolf population structure, anthropogenic disturbance, land cover, ecological factors, geographical features, and prey availability, and tested them as predictors to explain barrier occurrence at continental scale. We report few studies directly addressing this subject for one of the most emblematic and thoroughly studied species, inhabiting one of the most modified landscapes in the world. Albeit our analysis suggested that anthropogenic features are the main drivers of barrier occurrence, we highlight that the absence of standardised data limits our understanding of this subject. Long-term, intensive monitoring programs, explicit hypothesis-driven research using empirical methodologies, and the integration of information on databases for collaborative science are needed to increase the conservation and management relevance of future scientific outcomes on this topic.
... The grey wolf is an opportunistic predator displaying extensive dietary plasticity. Although it preys mainly on wild ungulates across its range, the wolf frequently supplements its diet with smaller vertebrates and even plant material (Zlatanova et al. 2014, Newsome et al. 2016, Homkes et al. 2020. Moreover, numerous studies demonstrated temporal and spatial changes in food habits (Meriggi et al. 2011, Lafferty et al. 2014, Lodberg-Holm et al. 2021. ...
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The diet composition and prey selection of grey wolves (Canis lupus) inhabiting the Roztocze and Solska Forest (south-east Poland) was studied based on an analysis of scats collected in 2001-2002 (n = 84) and 2017-2020 (n = 302). In both periods, wolves preyed mainly on wild ungulates (96.5-96.7% of consumed biomass). Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) was the most critical wolf prey accounting for 57.8% of consumed biomass in 2001-2002 and 49.2% and 2017-2020, but wolves positively select only wild boar (Jacob’s selectivity index D = 0.213 in 2001-2002 and 0.710 in 2017-2020) and fallow deer (D = 0.588 only in 2017-2020). The largest species – moose Alces alces and red deer Cervus elaphus – were consumed less than expected from their share in the ungulate community. Predation on medium-sized wild mammals and domestic animals was low, 0.8-2.2% and 1.1-2.7% of the biomass consumed, respectively. The breadth of the wolf diet was very narrow and identical in both study periods (B = 1.07), while the similarity of diet composition was high (α = 0.999). This study indicated the stability of the wolf diet over two decades and the importance of wild boar as a food source for this carnivore.
... Sporadic cat consumption by wolves has been reported [44] and our findings might suggest a trophic interaction between admixed and domestic individuals into the wild. However, the analysis of food remains from scats cannot rule out the post-mortem consumption of a cat carcass. ...
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