Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Fish and Wildlife Biology

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Erick Greene

Commitee Members

Daniel Pletscher, John W. McNutt, Rosemary Woodroffe, Michael K. Schwartz, Mark Hebblewhite


African wild dog, Chemistry, Scent marking, Territorial behavior, Territoriality


University of Montana


Conserving wide ranging, endangered species is challenging, and managers often lack information on movement and social dynamics. Wild dogs, Lycaon pictus, are large, wide-ranging carnivores and one of the most endangered animals in Africa. Unlike other large carnivores, wild dogs do not vocalize as a form of territorial advertisement so to explore mechanisms of communication and movement behaviors, I radio collared and observed a population of wild dogs in northern Botswana, to collect fine-scaled, contemporaneous movement data on neighboring packs of wild dogs, and collected scent marks from known individuals for chemical analyses and behavioral experiments.

To test whether wild dogs were territorial, I used VHF and GPS telemetry and direct observations. Wild dogs in northern Botswana exhibited territorial behavior where many territories overlapped with neighbors, however packs avoided being in overlap areas simultaneously. Wild dogs avoid conspecific contact, as these encounters can be dangerous and sometimes resulted in mortalities. Wild dogs scent marked, but did not patrol, their boundaries as might be expected of animals using an impermeable `scent fence'. Instead, wild dogs scent marked throughout their territories so intruders encounter increasing number of scent marks as they penetrate resident territories.

Through chemical analysis, significant differences were found between the chemical composition of scent marks of male and female wild dogs. Analyses were confounded by the fact that males tend to scent mark at boundaries and females in the interior. To better understand how wild dogs reacted to conspecific scent marks, I moved groups of fecal scent marks from neighboring and non-neighboring packs to measure behaviors of a recipient pack. Recipient dogs consistently investigated scent marks with greatest intensity when those scent marks were from a dominant dog, overmarked by its mate.

This is the first study to explore movement patterns and scent marking behavior and chemistry in wild dogs, providing evidence that wild dogs communicate with conspecifics through chemical signals, and likely rely upon scent marks as their primary mode of intraspecific communication. These data offer a platform for further exploration into how managers may manipulate behaviors to reduce conflicts and help conserve wild dogs.



© Copyright 2010 Margaret Parker