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Study: Heavily Hunted Wolves Stressed Out And Having Lots Of Sex

Gray wolf
Wikimedia
Gray wolf

A new study out of Canada reveals a surprising side-effect that hunting may have on wolves.

Gray wolf
Credit Wikimedia
/
Wikimedia
Gray wolf

Researchers wanted to compare the hormone levels in wolves that often deal with hunters’ fire, versus wolves that are hunted very little. They were able to measure levels of progesterone, testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol by looking at samples of wolf hair from different parts of northern Canada.

It turns out that wolves in heavily hunted areas had higher levels of a stress hormone and higher reproductive hormones.

So, they were stressed out and having more sex.

Judit Smits of the University of Calgary co-authored the paper. She said it’s not clear if the extra breeding outpaces human hunting, but it raises questions about using hunting to reduce wolf populations.

“By killing off a higher number of the animals are we actually going to stimulate higher reproductive efforts that are actually going to be counterproductive?” Smits said.

Smits said progesterone levels indicate that more than one female per pack was often having pups, which could be disruptive to wolves’ usually strict social structure. She said high levels of stress hormone is a concern because it could make wolves more vulnerable to disease.

The paper was published in the journal Functional Ecology.

Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network

Jessica Robinson
Jessica Robinson reported for four years from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho as the network's Inland Northwest Correspondent. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covered the economic, demographic and environmental trends that have shaped places east of the Cascades. Jessica left the Northwest News Network in 2015 for a move to Norway.