Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

No fear of the 'big bad wolf:' Feeding habits of German wolves investigated

Date:
March 19, 2012
Source:
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum
Summary:
Scientists have been investigating the feeding habits of wolves in the first eight years since their appearance in Germany. The results are reassuring: The proportion of livestock on the menu lies at less than one percent.

The wolf awakens unfounded fear in many.
Credit: Copyright Stefan Seidel

Scientists of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Görlitz have been investigating the feeding habits of wolves in the first eight years since their appearance in Germany. The results are reassuring: The proportion of livestock on the menu lies at less than one percent. The related study was published recently in the journal Mammalian Biology.

For a long time, wolves had been wiped out in Germany, now they are slowly getting back home. But not everyone is happy at the return of the wild animal. The feeding habits of Canis lupus are the subject of many legends and fables. Wolves that tear sheep apart, eat household pets and even attack people -- the return of the predators to German regions awakens fear and generates conflict amongst its inhabitants, hunters and farmers.

"The dietary habits of wolves has been the greatest point of contention with their return to Germany and it induced us to examine in closer detail the feeding habits of the wolves that migrated to Lusatia over ten years ago," explains Hermann Ansorge, head of the Zoology Department at the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History in Görlitz. "We took a look at what was on the menu for the wolves and how this has changed since the appearance of wolves in East Germany."

For this purpose the scientists collected over 3000 samples of wolf scat and tested them for undigested evidence of the animals' prey, such as hair, bones, hooves or teeth.

Using this information, supplemented by the findings of the remains of prey, it was possible for the Görlitz zoologists to determine the nutritional intake of the carnivores in detail. Wild ungulates accounted for over 96% of the wolves' prey, according to the investigation. The majority of these were roe deer (55.3%), followed by red deer (20.8%) and wild boar (17.7%). A small proportion of the prey was accounted for by the hare, at almost 3 percent.

"Less than one percent of the prey analysed was of livestock origins" adds Ansorge, continuing: "As long as sheep and other livestock are well protected and there is a sufficient supply of wild animals, the wolves will not risk confrontation with electric fences and guardian dogs."

The Görlitz zoologists investigated not only what the wolves are eating nowadays, but also how their feeding habits have changed over the years. Wolves are highly adaptable in terms of their dietary intake. For example, it is known from Canada that the wolf packs there feast on salmon in the autumn time.

"We were interested to find out how, why and how quickly the dietary composition of the wolf has changed in Saxony" explains Ansorge. The wolves in Lusatia came to Germany from Poland. There, the packs lived primarily on red deer, in contrast to the German wolves. During the early years of the study, the proportion of red deer eaten was considerably higher, whilst the ratio of roe deer was accordingly lower than in the subsequent five years. "We asked ourselves why the wolves changed their behaviour or whether the initial conditions had changed," the Görlitz zoologist continues.

In comparison to the Polish forests, those in Lusatia tend to be smaller and crossed by paths and fields. They offer the perfect expansive living space for roe deer and wild boar, whilst red deer tend to retreat to the more spacious wooded areas. Roe deer are therefore a simple and frequent prey from the wolves' perspective.

The shift in eating patterns therefore resulted from the change in the environmental conditions. The wolves quickly adapted -- they required less than two generations to become used to the new conditions of the landscape in East Germany.

Since the legal protection of wolves was introduced in 1990, it has taken more than ten years for the wolves in Germany to make themselves at home and bear pups on the Muskau Heath (a military training area). At the present time, nine wolf packs live in Lusatia with around 34 young. "The potential for conflict between man and wolf is very low" Ansorge sums up the results of the study. "There really is nothing standing in the way of the wolf returning."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Carina Wagner, Maika Holzapfel, Gesa Kluth, Ilka Reinhardt, Hermann Ansorge. Wolf (Canis lupus) feeding habits during the first eight years of its occurrence in Germany. Mammalian Biology - Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.mambio.2011.12.004

Cite This Page:

Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. "No fear of the 'big bad wolf:' Feeding habits of German wolves investigated." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120319094514.htm>.
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. (2012, March 19). No fear of the 'big bad wolf:' Feeding habits of German wolves investigated. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120319094514.htm
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. "No fear of the 'big bad wolf:' Feeding habits of German wolves investigated." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120319094514.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) — An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

Reuters - US Online Video (July 21, 2014) — An endangered black rhino baby is the newest resident at the San Diego Zoo. Sasha Salama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) — A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) — Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins