Red wolf natal dispersal characteristics: comparing periods of population increase and stability



Melissa Karlin, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28223, USA. Email:


We analyzed natal dispersal characteristics for 79 red wolves in the first long-term dispersal analysis for this species. Variables analyzed included straight-line dispersal distance, duration, timing, age, direction, and evidence of natal habitat preference induction of dispersers. We compared these values during a time when the population was increasing (1990–1998) to a period when the numbers had leveled off (1999–2007) and stabilized. We found no difference in average dispersal distance, duration or age between the two periods, and no gender bias in these characteristics. Yearlings/adults dispersed shorter distances (29.5 km) than pups (42.5 km) from 1999 to 2007 and decreased their dispersal distances during this period. After 1999, dispersals occurred 11 months of the year (compared with 7 months in 1990–1998), and the peak in pup dispersal timing shifted from December to January. The peak in dispersal timing was also significantly later for pups than yearlings/adults in 1999–2007. Dispersal direction was not random and there was a preference for a westward dispersal direction, attributed to the avoidance of water and a preference for agriculture. Natal habitat preference induction was also evident in dispersers during both time periods.