Howl I get to know you? : a review of behavioural observation methods: implications for monitoring wild wolves
1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Biology
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Oulu : S. Komulainen,
Observation is a key method in the field of animal ecology and behavioural research. Field studies often add to information collected via experimental methods to inform of their ecological validity. The grey wolf (Canis lupus) is an important species for wildlife management and conservation as well as comparative and cognitive studies which often use observational methods for data collection.
Despite the interest in the species, wolf behaviour is challenging to observe visually in the nature. To discuss how methodology could be improved to better study wolves in the wild, I looked at which methods have been used to study the behaviour of both wild wolves, and other terrestrial mammals. For this I conducted a systematic literature review on visual observation methods for wolves and other terrestrial mammals between the years 2001–2020.
I found that while binoculars and spotting scopes have remained the main visual observation method for wolf research, other terrestrial mammals are increasingly behaviourally monitored with camera traps and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Adapting these modern methods for wild wolf research could further our knowledge of their behaviour.
Developing ways to better observe the behaviour of wild animals in their natural environment may help us further understand their role in the environments they often share with humans. It can offer valuable information to aid conservation and management efforts, help minimize human-wildlife conflicts and economical losses, add to our understanding of evolution of social behaviour and ecological interactions, and offer possible ways to add ecological validity to experimental studies on canines. As technological advances provide us with more possibilities for observation, we can learn more about ourselves, and the canines living among us.
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