Hungry moose are more tolerant of wolves

Driven by the need for food, moose in western Wyoming are less likely to change their behavior to avoid wolves as winter progresses, according to new research by University of Wyoming scientists.

The findings, published in the journal Ecology, provide new insights into the interactions of the region’s apex predators and their prey. The results also highlight the complexity of the relationships between wolves and big-game species, making it difficult to reach general conclusions about whether and how fear of wolves has impacted the ecosystem, the researchers say.

CREDIT: MARK GOCKE

“We have known for some time that hungry animals will tolerate the presence of predators in order to forage and avoid starvation, and that phenomenon, called the ‘starvation-predation hypothesis,’ is supported by our research,” says Brendan Oates, now with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, who conducted the research as a UW graduate student. “In this case, close proximity of wolves does cause moose to move, but not enough to drive them from their preferred habitats — especially late in the winter.”

Research article: Antipredator response diminishes during periods of resource deficit for a large herbivore

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