Ausband, D.E. 2021. Wolf use of humanmade objects during pup-rearing. Animal Behavior and Cognition. 8: 405-414. DOI: https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.08.03.06.2021
Some animals use humanmade objects for building and constructing nests or shelter and even for play. Gray wolves (Canis lupus) gather and use humanmade objects discovered in their natural environment. Gathering humanmade objects is a peculiar behavior particularly when there is no immediately apparent benefit to survival or reproduction. I opportunistically documented 46 different types of humanmade objects with plastic bottles and aluminum cans being the most common item found at wolf pup-rearing sites. Many objects were made of materials that appeared suitable to alleviate pain in teething pups. For some objects, however, it was not immediately obvious that they would alleviate teething pain due to their unpliable material. Additionally, such objects were quite rare in wolves’ natural environment although it was not uncommon to find them at pup-rearing sites. Rare humanmade objects may provide a novelty that stimulates pups more than common objects. I hypothesize that objects used by wolf pups 1) alleviate pain from teething, and 2) provide adults respite from energetic pups. The latter is an important distinction because it implies the benefit of object play is to the adults and not the juveniles per se. Gathering novel objects that occupy energetic and hungry pups may influence the overall ability of social carnivores to leave young unattended while they hunt, to rest upon their return, and ultimately rear young successfully.