Environmental correlates of activity and energetics in a wide-ranging social carnivore

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Abstract

Background: Environmental conditions can influence animal movements, determining when and how much animals move. Yet few studies have quantified how abiotic environmental factors (e.g., ambient temperature, snow depth, precipitation) may affect the activity patterns and metabolic demands of wide-ranging large predators. We demonstrate the utility of accelerometers in combination with more traditional GPS telemetry to measure energy expenditure, ranging patterns, and movement ecology of 5 gray wolves (Canis lupus), a wide-ranging social carnivore, from spring through autumn 2015 in interior Alaska, USA. Results: Wolves exhibited substantial variability in home range size (range 500–8300 km2) that was not correlated with daily energy expenditure. Mean daily energy expenditure and travel distance were 22 MJ and 18 km day−1, respectively. Wolves spent 20% and 17% more energy during the summer pup rearing and autumn recruitment seasons than the spring breeding season, respectively, regardless of pack reproductive status. Wolves were predominantly crepuscular but during the night spent 2.4 × more time engaged in high energy activities (such as running) during the pup rearing season than the breeding season. Conclusion: Integrating accelerometry with GPS telemetry can reveal detailed insights into the activity and energetics of wide-ranging predators. Heavy precipitation, deep snow, and high ambient temperatures each reduced wolf mobility, suggesting that abiotic conditions can impact wolf movement decisions. Identifying such patterns is an important step toward evaluating the influence of environmental factors on the space use and energy allocation in carnivores with ecosystem-wide cascading effects, particularly under changing climatic conditions.

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Bryce, C. M., Dunford, C. E., Pagano, A. M., Wang, Y., Borg, B. L., Arthur, S. M., & Williams, T. M. (2022). Environmental correlates of activity and energetics in a wide-ranging social carnivore. Animal Biotelemetry, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40317-021-00272-w

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