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Human interaction as environmental enrichment for pair-housed wolves and wolf-dog crosses

By L. R. Mehrkam, N. T. Verdi, C. D. L. Wynne

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Abstract

Private nonhuman animal sanctuaries are often financially limited in their ability to implement traditional environmental enrichment strategies. One possible solution may be to provide socialized animals with human interaction sessions. However, the merit of human interaction as enrichment has received little empirical attention to date. The present study aimed to evaluate whether human interaction could be enriching for socialized, pair-housed wolves and wolf-dog crosses at a private sanctuary. Observations of each subject were conducted in a reversal design to measure species-typical affiliation, activity levels, and aberrant behaviors when caretakers were both present and absent. The results demonstrate significantly higher levels of conspecific-directed affiliation and activity levels and reduced aberrant behavior when human interaction was available. Social play also increased when caregivers were present, supporting the hypothesis that play among conspecifics may be maintained by positive changes in an animal's environment. The potential for human interaction to be established as a scientifically validated, cost-effective enrichment strategy is supported by these findings.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 17
Issue 1
Pages 43-58
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2014.856246
Language English
Author Address Department of Psychology, University of Florida, P.O. Box 11220, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.mehrky14@ufl.edu
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Tags
  1. Animals
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Canidae
  4. Canine
  5. Carnivores
  6. Crossbreds
  7. Enrichment
  8. Evaluation
  9. Mammals
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. vertebrates
  12. Wolves
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  1. peer-reviewed