You are here: Home / Theses / Effects of Visitors and Enrichments on Behavior of Captive Red Wolves' (Canis rufus) at the Great Plains Zoo, Sioux Falls, South Dakota / About

Effects of Visitors and Enrichments on Behavior of Captive Red Wolves' (Canis rufus) at the Great Plains Zoo, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

By Kylee S. Shotkoski

View Link (HTM)

Licensed under

Category Theses

Red wolves (Canis rufus) are the first animals to maintain a wild population from captive, released individuals. A captive breeding program for red wolves was started before complete extirpation, and 4 breeding pairs were released in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (North Carolina) in 1987 and a small wild population still exists there. Currently, there are several captive breeding facilities for red wolves within the Species Survival Plan (SSP) program. The Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota participates in the SSP program. My study was initiated to create a natural history background and evaluate interaction between red wolves and visitors to the zoo. I also evaluated captive management resources to enhance natural behavior of red wolves while in captivity. My study focused on a breeding pair in 2012 and the breeding female and 2 of her offspring in 2013. Objectives were to create an ethogram to describe red wolf behavior, investigate the effects of human visitors on captive red wolves, and to identify what zoo enrichments were beneficial for encouraging red wolves to display active behaviors. I used direct observation of red wolves to create an ethogram of specific behaviors. I documented changes from desirable to undesirable behaviors that occurred when zoo visitors were present at the red wolves’ exhibit. I added selected enrichments to the wolves’ enclosure and recorded their behavior in 4 categories: auditory, olfactory, environment, and food. Enrichments were chosen based on the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ large canid care manual to promote appropriate behaviors. Visitors were present for 49% of the 405 hours of observation. While visitors were present, negative behavior of all red wolves increased (Chi-sq. = 476; p < 0.001). In order to enhance desired behavior, it may be necessary to keep visitors away from red wolves that will be released into the wild. Auditory and environmental enrichments were most beneficial for the females, while olfactory and feeding enrichments were most beneficial for the juvenile male. Further research should be done to determine other enrichments which may be beneficial in creating desired behaviors in captive red wolves.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2016
Pages 70
Department Natural Resource Management
Degree Master of Science
Language English
University South Dakota State University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal roles
  3. open access
  4. South Dakota
  5. Wolves
  6. Zoo and captive wild animals
  7. Zoos
  1. open access