Some wolves have ‘beaver-killing personalities’, scientists say


Some wolves may have “beaver-killing personalities,” Minnesota scientists have found.

Research group the Voyageurs Wolf Project, at the University of Minnesota, examined beaver hunting behavior in eight pairs of wolves from six packs from 2019 to 2020 — the wolves studied were in the same pack at the same time, meaning they were in similar environments.

Researchers then compared how often wolves from the same pack of beavers ambushed and how often they succeeded.

In this combination image, a beaver eating bark and a gray wolf. Some wolves show more tendencies to “kill beavers” than others.
iStock/Getty Images

Findings published in the journal, The Ecological Society of America, show that some wolves hunted beavers 229 percent more than pack members and 263 percent more beavers than pack members.

The study said this caused “substantial variation in the number of pack members killed.”

And scientists believe this has to do with personality traits.

The hunting variations in the wolves “suggest personality-driven differences,” the study said.

For example, wolves that manage to ambush beavers have the patience to wait near ponds or along beaver feeding trails.

“Certain individual wolves wait much more often and much longer than others,” the study said. “You can say that some wolves are more patient or tenacious than others when it comes to hunting and killing beavers.

Wolves that are more likely to feast on beavers also have a “greater ecological impact,” according to the project on Facebook. This is because this could change “the creation of more beaver-created wetlands” in the ecosystem.

“Wolves with strong beaver-killing personalities appear to be disproportionately responsible, relative to the wolf population as a whole, for altering wetland creation and its associated ecological effects,” said co-author and project leader at the Voyageurs Wolf Project, Thomas. Gable, in a press release.

An example of this behavior was shared last week. On Facebook, the Voyageurs Wolf Project shared photos of a wolf that caused a record-breaking beaver massacre in Voyageurs National Park.

The breeding male wolf known as “P0C” broke a monthly record by killing 15 beavers in May, the Voyageurs Wolf Project said on Facebook.

Gable compared these findings to what scientists already know about dogs — many dog ​​owners are sure their pets have certain personality traits.

“Dogs are basically just domesticated wolves. That means there are often a lot of parallels in the behavior and mannerisms between wolves and dogs,” Gable said. news week† “However, domestication and subsequent selective breeding changed many aspects of dog behavior, physiology, etc. We referenced dogs in our press release simply to make our article recognizable to humans and hopefully provide a personal connection to the subject.”

The paper “shows that there is substantial variability in the behavior of individual wolves within the same social units,” and this can then “lead to different ecosystem effects,” Gable said.

“Identifying these is beneficial to understanding wolves as a species and how they may affect ecosystems. We hope this work spurred other researchers to explore how predator personalities affect the ecosystems they live in,” he said.

The Voyageurs Wolf Project follows wolves living in Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park by setting up camera traps.

“Clearly, there is still a lot to learn about how individual predators affect the ecosystems they live in,” Gable said.