Context-dependent responses of naïve ungulates to wolf-sound playback in a human-dominated landscape

Martijn J.A. Weterings*, Nina Meister, Konstantin Fey, Patrick A. Jansen, Frank van Langevelde, Henry J. Kuipers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Predation risk is a major driver of the distribution of prey animals, which typically show strong responses to cues for predator presence. An unresolved question is whether naïve individuals respond to mimicked cues, and whether such cues can be used to deter prey. We investigated whether playback of wolf sounds induces fear responses in naïve ungulates in a human-dominated landscape from which wolves have been eradicated since 1879. We conducted a playback experiment in mixed-coniferous and broadleaved forest that harboured three cervid and one suid species. At 36 locations, we played wolf sounds, sounds of local sheep or no sounds, consecutively, in random order, and recorded visit rate and group size, using camera traps. Visit rates of cervids and wild boar showed a clear initial reduction to playback of both wolf and sheep sounds, but the type of response differed between sound, forest type and species. For naïve wild boar in particular, responses to predator cues depended on forest type. Effects on visit rate disappeared within 21 days. Group sizes in all the species were not affected by the sound treatment. Our findings suggest that the responses of naïve ungulates to wolf sound seem to be species specific, depend on forest type and wear off in time, indicating habituation. Before we can successfully deter ungulates using predator sound, we should further investigate how different forest types affect the perception of naïve ungulates to these sounds, as responses to predator sound may depend on habitat characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-20
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • antipredator behaviour
  • auditory cues
  • camera trapping
  • Capreolus capreolus
  • cervids
  • Cervus elaphus
  • Dama dama
  • habituation
  • Sus scrofa


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