Territorial scent-marking and proestrus in a recolonizing wild Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) population in central Wisconsin





behaviour, Gray Wolf, Canis lupus, proestrus, scent-marking, reproduction, territory, raised-leg urinations, recolonization


Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) uses scent-marking to communicate breeding status, dominance, and territorial boundaries. Despite its importance for reproduction and pack dynamics, information on scent-marking and proestrus in wild wolf populations is limited to a handful of locations. We estimated the rate of territorial scent-marking and the probability of proestrus in a recolonizing Gray Wolf population near the species southern range extent in eastern North America. An analysis of 221 pack-winters of tracking data show that the incremental addition of one wolf pack increased marking rates by 3.4%, whereas increasing the number of wolves in a pack decreased marking rates by 12.1%. Scent-marking rates subsequently increased from 1.9 times/km during recolonization to 3.0 times/km once the population was saturated. We observed evidence of proestrus from 19 December to 14 March with the highest probability of proestrus occurring around 6 February, after peak marking rates around 26 January. Repeated observations of bloody urinations within individual packs suggest proestrus averages 27.9 days. Our study reveals the role of population growth on territorial behaviours and provides a foundation for studies exploring the role of geographic and temporal variation on territorial and reproductive behaviours in wolves.