Some Wolves Have 'Beaver-Killing Personalities,' Scientists Say

Some wolves may have "beaver-killing personalities," scientists in Minnesota have found.

Research group the Voyageurs Wolf Project, at the University of Minnesota, examined beaver-hunting behavior in eight pairs of wolves from six packs from 2019 to 2020—the wolves studied were in the same pack at the same time, meaning they were living in similar environments.

Researchers then compared how many times wolves from the same pack ambushed beavers and how many times they were successful at it.

Wolf
In this combination image, a beaver eating bark and a grey wolf. Some wolves display more "beaver-killing" tendencies than others. iStock / Getty Images

Findings published in the journal, The Ecological Society of America, show that some wolves hunted beavers 229 percent more than pack members, and ambushed beavers 263 percent percent more than pack members.

The study said this showered "a substantial variation in pack member kill rates."

And scientists believe that this is down to personality traits.

The hunting variations in the wolves "suggests personality-driven differences," the study said.

For example, wolves that are successful in ambushing beavers have the patience to wait at ponds or along beaver feeding trails.

"Certain individual wolves wait much more often and much longer than others," the study read. "One can say some wolves are more patient or persistent than others when it comes to hunting and killing beavers.

Wolves that have more of an inclination to feast on beavers also have a "larger ecological impact," the project said on Facebook. This is because this can "alter the creation of more beaver-created wetlands" in the ecosystem.

"Wolves with strong beaver-killing personalities appear to be disproportionately responsible, relative to the wolf population as whole, for altering wetland creation and the associated ecological effects," co-author and project leader with the Voyageurs Wolf Project, Thomas Gable, said in a press release.

An example of these behaviors was shared last week. On Facebook, the Voyageurs Wolf Project shared pictures of a wolf that went on a record-breaking beaver massacre throughout the Voyageurs National Park.

The breeding male wolf known as 'P0C' broke a monthly record by killing 15 beavers in May, the Voyageurs Wolf Project said on Facebook.

Gable likened these findings to what scientists already know about dogs—many dog owners are sure that their pets have certain personality traits.

"Dogs are effectively just domesticated wolves. That means there are often many parallels in the behavior and mannerisms between wolves and dogs," Gable told Newsweek. "However, domestication and subsequent selective breeding has changed many aspects of dog behavior, physiology, etc. We referenced dogs in our press release simply to make our paper relatable to folks, and hopefully provide a personal connection with the topic."

The paper "demonstrates that there is substantial variability in the behavior of individual wolves within the same social units," and this can subsequently "lead to differential ecosystem effects," Gable said.

"Identifying this is beneficial for understanding wolves as a species and how they can impact ecosystems. Our hope is that this work spurs other researchers to examine how personalities of predators affects the ecosystems they live in," he said.

The Voyageurs Wolf Project tracks wolves living in Minnesota's Voyageurs National Park by setting up camera traps.

"Clearly, there is much still to be learned about how individual predators affect the ecosystems they live in," Gable said.