UM research: Yellowstone wolves change behavior with bears about

by the University of Montana
February 4, 2022

MISSOULA – If you are a wolf living in Yellowstone National Park, bears mess with you. They show up uninvited and steal kills from your pack. And when scavenging bears drive you away from tasty carcasses, you and your fellow wolves will – strangely enough – kill less often.

The reasons for this unexpected finding are explored in a new study by researchers at the University of Montana, Yellowstone National Park, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and others. The work was published in the scientific journal Ecological Monographs.

“In both Yellowstone and Scandinavia, previous research had shown how the presence of bears led to wolf kill rates that were lower,” said Dr. Matthew Metz, a research associate with the Yellowstone Wolf Project, who earned his doctorate in wildlife biology from UM in December. “This was exciting because it showed that wolf foraging behavior doesn’t occur in a vacuum – it is affected by other apex predators on the landscape.”

This latest study delved into the competitive mechanisms that lead to decreased kill rates by wolves, and examined whether they were the same between continents.

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