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Ontogeny of Prey-Killing Behavior in Canidae

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The development of prey-killing behavior in naive hand-raised wolves, coyotes and grey foxes was studied. Action patterns and sequences of prey-killing and play with prey were also determined in these species and also in the red and Arctic fox and domesticated dog. Movement of the prey was a strong stimulus to all canids, eliciting orientation, approach and attack. These reactions occurred earliest in ontogeny, followed by seizure of the prey and carrying to a safe or quiet place. Consummatory eating in the wolf and grey fox appeared to be triggered by blood. The ontogeny of temporal sequences of prey killing behavior are detailed, and the action patterns which are species-specific and family-specific are compared. Temporal cycles of play with prey are described in the coyote and grey fox. The question of intraspecific and interspecies aggression in relation to prey killing patterns is discussed and the socio-ecological aspects of hunting, which have not been studied in this investigation, are considered.

Affiliations: 1: (Psychology Department, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., U.S.A.

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