By Painted Wolf Foundation - May 27, 2021

The nose knows when it comes to reducing stress

Researchers at the James Cook University have proposed an innovative idea for reducing stress  and stress-related aggression during translocations of wild canines. They have published their theory on the use of naturally occurring pheromones in the academic journal Animals. This could prove to be a valuable tool for conservation management, making translocations as stress-free and successful as possible.

Translocations and reintroductions of painted wolves have been used to increase populations and genetic diversity, often necessary due to fragmented habitats. Successful translocations have increased the range of painted wolves. However, translocations can be a stressful event for the individual animals. 

Translocations often group together painted wolves that are unknown to each other, in the hopes they will form a new, cohesive pack. Such a stressful event can lead to increased aggression and mortalities during artificial pack formation. Animals are often held in temporary enclosures before they are released to allow social cohesion (read about what it takes for successful artificial pack formation HERE). If they don’t form a bond, there is a much higher risk of the pack breaking down on release.

Appeasing pheromones are chemicals that lactating females commonly release. These act as messages to calm and reassure their newborns. Their use could be a natural, non-invasive tool to reduce aggression and help artificial pack formation.

There are already commercially available pheromone mimics for domestic dogs. The research team had already shown that pheromones from domestic dogs seem to reduce stress-related aggression in captive painted wolves. Using painted wolf-specific pheromones is the next step for the research team. They hope to be able to isolate these pheromones in the coming months.