Yellowstone Wolf Pups Low Survival Rate Linked To Canine Distemper

It appears Canine Distemper not Parvovirus, as was speculated, was responsible for the low survival rates of wolf pups in Yellowstone.  The pups were hit hard in 2008, 2005 and 1999.  The overall gray wolf population declined in Yellowstone last year by 27%.
I hope this doesn’t repeat itself this year in Yellowstone or affect the wolf packs being subjected to the hunts.  There is enough stress being placed on wolves because of this hunting season.  Idaho’s hunt will extend into early Spring, right through wolf mating season.  We all know alpha males and females will be killed, which may reduce the number of pups born. “Young of the Year” are also allowed to be shot during the hunts, which is a euphemism for pup.  Not sure how anyone can kill a puppy?×768/JLM-wolf-pups-02-1024×768.html
2008 Summary Wolf Decline Yellowstone National Park

At the end of 2008, at least 124 wolves in 12 packs and various groups occupied Yellowstone National Park. This is one more pack than in 2007, but several long-term, stable packs were lost and smaller, newly formed packs replaced them. This represents a 27% decline compared to the 2007 population and was similar to the 30% decline in 2005. Only six of these packs were breeding pairs, the smallest count since 2000 (when wolves first reached the minimum requirement for delisting of 30 breeding pairs in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming). High mortality of both pups and adults caused the low breeding pair count, despite there being 12 packs. Disease and intraspecific mortality are the two primary factors that caused the wolf population decline.”

Research Points to Canine Distemper As Cause of Low Wolf Pup Survival in Yellowstone National Park

Posted September 17th, 2009 by Kurt Repanshek

Canine distemper apparently was the culprit behind high pup mortality in Yellowstone’s wolf packs in 199, 2005 and 2008. NPS photo by Jim Peaco.

Canine distemper, not parvovirus, apparently was behind the high wolf pup mortality rates in Yellowstone National Park in 1999, 2005 and 2008, according to new research.

Canine parvovirus was thought to be the culprit behind the atypically high number of pup deaths in 1999 and 2005 because parvovirus is known to cause a high mortality rate in domestic dogs, and was suspected in the high death rate of wolves at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan in the early 1980s, according to a park release. However, newly published research points to canine distemper as the cause of the low pup survival rates.

Researchers took blood samples from wolves and coyotes in Yellowstone National Park. They looked for exposure to a number of canine diseases. The results indicate that some diseases like parvovirus are chronic in the park’s wild canines.

However, signs of distemper appeared only in the years when pup mortality was high. Since distemper weakens the immune system and makes infected animals susceptible to other infections, it can be difficult to determine the actual cause of death.

The research also indicates that the wolf population seems to fare well despite some chronic infections, and rebounds well from periodic exposure to distemper.

What the research was unable to answer, though, was the source of the canine distemper, the park said. However, the data suggest it was not linked to the region’s domestic dog population, adds the release.

The research was conducted by the Yellowstone Wolf Project, the University of Minnesota, and the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center. Click here to read study.

Posted in: Yellowstone wolves 

Tags:  canine distemper in wolves, yelllowstone wolf pup mortality

Published in: on September 24, 2009 at 11:02 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Extremely informative and interesting articles. Your passion for the gray wolf cause is evident. Keep up the great work.


  2. this article is extremely informative I thank you for sharing your magnificent work. You truly have a soft spot for wolves, as do I perhaps we can get others to as well.


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