Scientists Develop Computer Program That Can Identify Individual Wolves By Their Howls

Posted on July 30, 2013

UK researchers have developed a computer program that can identify individuals wolves from the sound of their howls. The scientists say the program is 100% accurate. The computational code can distinguish between vocal signatures of wild Eastern grey wolves by studying both the volume and pitch of their howls.

The new program will be a great tool for surveying and conserving wild wolves. Wolves have enormous home ranges of up to 1,000 square miles and can hunt as far as 30 miles in a single day. This makes it very difficult for scientists to track them.

The researchers from Nottingham Trent University were led by Holly Root-Gutteridge, a PhD student based in the university's School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences.

Root-Gutteridge said in a release, "We already knew that wolves, like humans, had distinct voices, and now we are able to identify them with 100% accuracy without ever even seeing them. In scientific terms this is really exciting, because it means that if we hear a howl on night one we can tell if it is or isn't the same wolf that you hear on subsequent nights. For the first time we will be able to be sure which wolf is howling to us and track individuals across their territories using just their howls. This is much easier and cost-effective to do than other tracking methods such as GPS-collaring."

BBC News has a video interview with Holly Root-Gutteridge here. The research was published here in the journal, Bioacoustics.

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