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Wolf Pack Territory Marking in the Bialowieza Primeval Forest (Poland)

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We analysed data on territory marking with urine, scats, and ground scratching by wolves (Canis lupus) belonging to four packs in the Bialowieza Primeval Forest, Poland. The aims were to determine: (1) seasonal variation in the marking rates, (2) significance of various kinds of marking in territory demarcation, and (3) relationship between spatial distribution of wolves' marking and their use of territory. Continuous radio-tracking and subsequent snow tracking of the collared wolves were the main methods. Deposition rates of scats showed little variation in time and space, whereas rates of urine marking and ground scratching showed large seasonal and spatial variation. Wolf marking rates with urine and ground scratching were highest during the cold season (October-March) and peaked during the mating season, in January and February. Marking intensity did not grow with the number of wolves in a pack, and per capita rates of marking were highest in wolves travelling singly or in pairs. Mean marking rates per km of wolf trail were low in the core areas of territories, and increased when wolves approached the boundaries. However, densities of marks (number of marks per square km) increased in territory centre (due to intense use of core area by the pack), and in peripheral areas, which bounded other territories (due to increased marking activity by wolves when moving along the territory edge). Our findings did not support the 'olfactory bowl' model of wolf territory marking, as marks were not distributed equally along territory boundaries. Instead, marks were concentrated in 'hot spots' more vulnerable to penetration by intruders (territory edge) or more valuable to owners (vicinities of breeding dens).


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