Passive acoustic monitoring of canidsTracking movements and exploring wolf-coyote-dog vocal interactions
What We Do
I am fortunate enough to be part of an amazing group of researchers at the Canid Howl Project. We work on understanding animal communication with a focus on wolf and coyote howls, and how we can implement passive acoustic monitoring of canids. In less fancy terms, we are working on a non-intrusive method to track wolves and coyotes in the wild by placing acoustic detectors (highly sensitive microphones) in their habitat. We can then record their howls and based on the time differences between the sounds reaching different recorders, we can triangulate the animals’ positions! This is basically the same concept as locating somebody’s cell phone from looking at when it registered on different cell towers.
Here’s an example of a wolves howling that we recorded in December 2019 in Wisconsin:
In December 2019, with the help of funding from the Animal Welfare Institute, we spent an amazing two weeks in Wisconsin, USA conducting fieldwork. We focused on one wolf pack territory and after scouting the area for field signs (tracks, scat, urine) we deployed a mixture of SM3 and SM4 acoustic detectors in the forest. The first few days were definitely tough as we felt like we were always one step behind the wolves’ movements and had to constantly change the locations of the detectors. The long days and brainstorming paid off though as we eventually managed to record lots of animal vocalisations (like the one above), and were able to locate wolves and coyotes on several occasions. Once we’d started to localise the animals, we put out camera traps (kindly lent to us by NatureSpy) to try to confirm their presence in the area. Although we didn’t capture any wolves on the cameras, we did capture this nice video of a coyote:
In keeping with my research interests of how domestic dogs affect wildlife, I will be using the recordings from Wisconsin to look at the vocal interactions between farm dogs, wolves and coyotes in the area. We found lots of instances of these three species responding to each other so I’m really excited to get this data analysed!
You can listen to this clip here:
You can find out more about the project by following our social media channels or emailing us:
You may also want to check out some of the scientific papers published by researchers from the Canid Howl Project:
Kershenbaum, A., Owens, J.L. and Waller, S., 2019. Tracking cryptic animals using acoustic multilateration: A system for long-range wolf detection. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 145(3), pp.1619-1628. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.5092973
Kershenbaum, A., Root-Gutteridge, H., Habib, B., Koler-Matznick, J., Mitchell, B., Palacios, V. and Waller, S., 2016. Disentangling canid howls across multiple species and subspecies: Structure in a complex communication channel. Behavioural processes, 124, pp.149-157. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2016.01.006