Scent-Marking: Investigating Chemosensory Signals in Wolf Urine
Wolfram, Wendi K
Date: 2 April 2013
University of Exeter
PhD in Biological Sciences
Identifying the best control method for problematic wildlife is an ever present issue in wildlife management. Popular control methods have ranged from lethal techniques, extirpating the animal, to multiple non-lethal methods focused on deterring undesired behavior. In the past, lethal methods were the preferred choice. However, with ...
Identifying the best control method for problematic wildlife is an ever present issue in wildlife management. Popular control methods have ranged from lethal techniques, extirpating the animal, to multiple non-lethal methods focused on deterring undesired behavior. In the past, lethal methods were the preferred choice. However, with increased awareness of the need for biodiversity conservation, new management methods focus on non-lethal control, with emphasis on exploiting aspects of naturally occurring organismal behaviors and ecology. Over the past decade, technological advances in extraction method’s and equipment have also developed new techniques providing a broader range of information about species biology for management use. One of the most well documented conflicts between wildlife and humans is that of the wolf. Using advanced technology and new techniques, we investigated the implication of using chemosensory signals in canid urine to modify behavior as a possible non-lethal alternative in large predator management. Here we used the SBSE method coupled with improved GC/MS equipment to analyze the volatile organic compounds in the urine of four canid species, gray wolf (Canis lupus), red wolf (Canis rufus), wolf-dog hybrids (Canis familiaris) and the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) in order to create working urinary profiles. The extraction method identified several compounds also seen in the urinary profiles of other large predators. In addition, similarities and differences were also noted between taxa and the sexes, and these can be further explored in future studies. Two identified urinary compounds, acetophenone and methyl propyl sulfide, were selected for further behavioral evaluation. We focused on these compounds and their influence as chemosensory signals triggering urine marking events in both the gray wolf and red wolf. Behavioral observations of the effects of these two chemicals indicated they elicited responses from captive wolves. At each of the three study sites, the combination of these chemicals produced urine-marking events along the territory boundary by dominant animals. As a result, the investigation focused on what triggered the urine-marking events, the chemicals themselves, their combination, or the breakdown of the chemicals producing other odorants. It was found that there was no significant degradation of the chemicals over time and environmental conditions produced no significant breakdown of the acetophenone prior to the addition of methyl propyl sulfide. This posed a number of new questions and illustrated the need for additional behavioral studies. The results of this study analyzing chemosensory signals in canid urine, provides biologists with new information to aid in the development of new non-lethal management strategies for handling problematic wildlife as well as providing useful information for future research involving reproduction, predator/prey dynamics, territory maintenance, and a host of other studies focusing on animal ecology in association with chemosensory signaling.
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