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Wolves choose ambushing locations to counter and capitalize on the sensory abilities of their prey

Citation

Gable, Thomas et al. (2020), Wolves choose ambushing locations to counter and capitalize on the sensory abilities of their prey, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.4xgxd257z

Abstract

Wolves (Canis lupus) are primarily cursorial predators, but they use ambush strategies to hunt beavers (Castor canadensis). Terrestrial beaver activity is predictable because beavers use well-defined, conspicuous habitat features repeatedly. Thus, studying where wolves wait-in-ambush for beavers provides a unique opportunity to understand how predators choose ambush locations in relation to prey activity. We searched 11,817 clusters of GPS-locations from wolves in the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem, Minnesota, USA and documented 748 ambushing sites and 214 instances where wolves killed beavers. Wolves chose ambush locations: 1) with olfactory concealment to avoid detection from the highly-developed olfactory senses of beavers, and 2) close (generally <5 m) to beaver habitat features to take advantage of beavers’ inability to visually detect motionless predators. Our work describes in detail the ambush strategies wolves use to hunt beavers, and continues to overturn the traditional notion that wolves rely solely on cursorial hunting strategies. We also demonstrate that ambush predators can anticipate the movements and behavior of their prey due to a fundamental understanding of their prey’s sensory abilities. Wolves therefore, and likely ambush predators in general, appear capable of simultaneously accounting for abiotic and biotic factors when choosing ambush locations, ultimately allowing them to counter the defenses and exploit the sensory deficiencies of their prey.

Methods

We identified ambushing attempts and wolf-killed beavers by following wolves fitted with 20-minute fix interval GPS-collars. Please see the publication for detailed information on our methods. 

The data presented is the raw data and has not been processed.

Usage Notes

For the AmbushingAttempts_Data_2015-2019 data, the fields are as follows below. Note: each row of data is a unique ambushing attempt.

  • Hunting Attempt ID: an unique ID assigned to each ambushing attempt identified
  • Wolf ID: the wolf that made a specific ambushing attempt
  • 1st Beaver Feature: A beaver feature (e.g. feeding trail, dam) a wolf waited to during an ambushing attempt. If the wolf only waited next to one feature during the attempt than only this field (1st Beaver Feature) will include data whereas the fields "2nd Beaver Feature" and "3rd Beaver Feature" would remain blank.
  • 2nd Beaver Feature. A beaver feature (e.g. feeding trail, dam) a wolf waited to during an ambushing attempt. If a wolf waited next to two beaver features at a single attempt, then both "1st Beaver Feature" and "2nd Beaver Feature" would be filled in but the field "3rd Beaver Feature" would remain blank. 
  • 3rd Beaver Feature. A beaver feature (e.g. feeding trail, dam) a wolf waited to during an ambushing attempt. If a wolf waited next to three beaver features at a single attempt, then "1st Beaver Feature", "2nd Beaver Feature", and "3rd Beaver Feature" would be filled in. 
  • Feeding Trail Length: The length (m) of the beaver feeding trail a wolf waited-in-ambush next to. 
  • Distance from Beaver Activity: The distance (m) the wolf waited-in-ambush from beaver activity
  • Distance from Water: The distance (m) the wolf waited-in-ambush from water
  • Min Time at Ambush Site: The minimum amount of time the wolf could have waited-in-ambush at that ambushing attempt based on GPS-collar locations (to see how this was calculated, see Gable et al. 2016. Where and how wolves kill beavers. PLoS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165537). 
  • Max Time at Ambush Site: The maximum amount of time the wolf could have waited-in-ambush at that ambushing attempt based on GPS-collar locations (to see how this was calculated, see Gable et al. 2016. Where and how wolves kill beavers. PLoS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165537).
  • Wind Bearing (avg): average wind bearing (in degrees) during the ambushing attempts. 
  • Detected by Beaver?: Whether the wolf would have been detected via olfaction by a beaver during the ambushing attempt.

For the BeaverKillSiteData_BEHECO data, the field are as follows below. Note: each row of data is a unique wolf-killed beaver.

  • Kill_ID: a unique ID assigned to each wolf-killed beaver identified
  • dateFound: the date the wolf-killed beaver was found in the field
  • wolf_ID: the wolf that killed the beaver
  • BeaverFeature: the beaver feature that the wolf-killed the beaver at or next to.