Den shifting by wolves in semi-wild landscapes in the Deccan Plateau, Maharashtra, India


Satish Kumar, Department of Wildlife Sciences, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh-202 002, UP, India


Reproductive success is crucial for the survival and persistence of any species. The Deccan Biogeographic Zone of India is the stronghold of a population of the Indian wolf Canis lupus pallipes. Gaining a better understanding of the den-use pattern of wolves in different areas in this zone is thus vital for their conservation and management. The wolves excavated multiple dens in our study sites and kept shifting their litters among them. Major disturbance factors around denning sites were active stone quarries, traffic, crop harvesting and livestock movement. One wolf pack used 14 dens in four breeding seasons. Discriminant function analysis indicated that den shifting by wolves was not entirely governed by disturbance levels at den sites. Increasing age of pups was one of the main factors associated with den shifting rather than the magnitude of disturbance (χ2=34.26, d.f.=12, P<0.001). Tolerance to disturbance around dens during the early stages of pup development was negatively correlated (r=−0.519, P<0.05) with availability of water and age of pups (r=−0.613, P<0.01). Excavation of multiple dens by wolves was apparently related to den shifting, which seemingly is a survival strategy of wolves in these semi-wild human-dominated landscapes in the Deccan Biogeographic Zone. Principal components analysis indicated that during the initial stages of pup development, nature of the land, den orientation and distance of the den from roads were important cues in addition to age category of pups for den shifting. The analysis also suggested that factors such as distance of the new den where pups are to be transferred, distance from water source and availability of fox Vulpes bengalensis holes for den use were also important.