Statistical methods for identifying wolf kill sites using global positioning system locations

Nathan F. Webb, Mark Hebblewhite, Evelyn H. Merrill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Accurate estimates of kill rates remain a key limitation to addressing many predator-prey questions. Past approaches for identifying kill sites of large predators, such as wolves (Canis lupus), have been limited primarily to areas with abundant winter snowfall and have required intensive ground-tracking or aerial monitoring. More recently, attempts have been made to identify clusters of locations obtained using Global Positioning System (GPS) collars on predators to identify kill sites. However, because decision rules used in determining clusters have not been consistent across studies, results are not necessarily comparable. We illustrate a space-time clustering approach to statistically define clusters of wolf GPS locations that might be wolf kill sites, and we then use binary and multinomial logistic regression to model the probability of a cluster being a non-kill site, kill site of small-bodied prey species, or kill site of a large-bodied prey species. We evaluated our approach using field visits of kills and assessed the accuracy of the models using an independent dataset. The cluster-scan approach identified 42-100% of wolf-killed prey, and top logistic regression models correctly classified 100% of kills of large-bodied prey species, but 40% of small-bodied prey species were classified as nonkills. Although knowledge of prey distribution and vulnerability may help refine this approach, identifying small-bodied prey species will likely remain problematic without intensive field efforts. We recommend that our approach be utilized with the understanding that variation in prey body size and handling time by wolves will likely have implications for the success of both the cluster scan and logistic regression components of the technique.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)798-807
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Canis lupus
  • Handing time
  • Kill sites
  • Predation
  • Predator-prey interactions
  • Space-time clustering
  • Wolves


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