Wolves with high hunting threat get stressed out: study

Wolves in areas where the animals are heavily hunted experience social disruption and psychological stress, says a new study published in the scientific journal Functional Ecology.
Researchers found that wolves facing a greater hunting threat have higher levels of stress and reproductive hormones. (Dawn Villella/Associated Press)

Wolves in areas where the animals are heavily hunted experience social disruption and psychological stress, says a new study.

The study, published in the scientific journal Functional Ecology, involves scientists from B.C., Alberta and Israel who measured hormone levels in small tufts of wolf hair gathered in Alberta, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Researchers found that wolves facing a greater hunting threat have higher levels of stress and reproductive hormones, which they say alters a wolf pack's elaborate social structure and might have evolutionary consequences.

Co-author and University of Calgary Prof. Marco Musiani said the hormonal changes could result in unintended increases in reproduction rates and altered genetic structure for the animals.

The Raincoast Conservation Foundation, whose researchers participated in the study, opposes B.C.'s grey wolf management plan, which was released this spring after a review of more than 2,500 public input submissions.

Raincoast's executive director Chris Genovali says the study highlights that lethal control programs should take psychological and social effects on animals into account, not just numbers.