Big Packs, Bigger Game
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
November 12, 2014
Researchers at Utah State University published a new paper indicating that wolf pack size may influence what prey is targeted. Smaller packs of 2-6 wolves are successful at taking down elk, but bigger packs (9-13 wolves) turn to bison as prey. Elk are much smaller than bison.
The paper, "Influence of Group Size on the Success of Wolves Hunting Bison," was published in the online journal PLos ONE this week, with research centered on wolf packs in Yellowstone National Park.
The researchers noted: "Whereas improvement in elk capture success levelled off at 2–6 wolves, bison capture success levelled off at 9–13 wolves with evidence that it continued to increase beyond 13 wolves. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that hunters in large groups are more cooperative when hunting more formidable prey. Improved ability to capture formidable prey could therefore promote the formation and maintenance of large predator groups, particularly among predators that specialize on such prey."
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