Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One Side Effect Of Hunting Wolves? They're Having More Sex


wolf, wildlife, yellowstone
Credit Jim Peaco / Yellowstone National Park
A new study out of Canada reveals a surprising side-effect that hunting may have on wolves.

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.

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