The Wolf Intelligencer

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." John Muir

Steppe Wolf (Canis lupus campestris)

Steppe Wolf (Canis lupus campestris) – (Dwigubski 1804)
syn. – bactrianus Laptev, 1929, cubanenesisOgnev, 1923
desertorum Bogdanov, 1882

Common Names: Caspian Sea Wolf, Caucasian Steppe Wolf , Каспий теңізіндегі қасқыр, Кавказ дала қасқыр, Каспийский волк, кавказский степной волк

Overall population: unknown (endangered?)

Physical description:
“Average dimensions are somewhat less than the Middle Russian Wolf, C. l. lupus. Pelage is shorter, coarser and sparser. Color of the sides is relatively light, gray, on the back rusty-gray or brownish with a quite strong admixture of black hairs.”
Heptner, V.G.; Naumov, N.P., eds. (1998). Mammals of the Soviet Union, Vol. II, Part 1a. Sirenia and Carnivora (Sea Cows; Wolves and Bears). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Libraries and the National Science Foundation. pp. 188–189.

Original range -Native to the Caspian steppes, the steppe regions of the Caucasus, the lower Volga region, southern Kazakhstan north to the middle of the Emba, the northern Urals, and the steppe regions of the lower European part of the former Soviet Union. It may also have occured in northern Afghanistan and Iran and occasionally the steppe regions of Romania and Hungary.
Current range -South-western portion of Russia that borders the northern half of the Caspian Sea. Kazakhstan.

Habitat / Ecology/ Prey:
Habitat – ” Great Steppe” ecoregion of Eurasia in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome
Prey –  Saiga Antelope (Saiga tatarica), Caspian seal (Phoca caspica), Ground Squirrels/ large-toothed souslik (Citellus fulvus), little souslik (Citellus pygmaeus), livestock

“Undoubtedly significant damage is caused by predators to Saiga populations in Kazakhstan, and thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of animals are killed. When Wolf numbers are high, they combine with other factors to reduce the growth rate of Saiga populations, but they do not generally play a leading role in limiting Saiga populations. However, if Saiga populations were reduced to low levels by other factors, and particularly in an area with livestock as an alternative prey, Wolf predation could possibly become an important limiting factor on the Saiga in the future.”

The ecology and management of the saiga antelope in Kazakhstan. Bekenov AB, Grachev IA, Milner‐Gulland EJ. Mammal Review. 1998 Mar

“In Russia, wolves can be divided into two ecological types: (1) “wild” wolves that occur in natural habitats and prey mainly on wild ungulates, and (2) “synantrophic” wolves that live in anthropogenic habitat and feed on livestock, dogs, poultry, and carrion (Bibikov et al.1985)….
In a region adjacent to the Caspian Sea where saiga antelope is the only species of wild ungulates, wolves prey on it and livestock. In some areas of this region, however, no ungulates exist (wild boar and saiga antelope were extirpated), and wolves survive on rodents (large-toothed souslik Citellus fulvus and little souslik Citellus pygmaeus) in summer and livestock and carrion in the autumn-winter period (Zalozny 1980). These wolves can be thus classified as synantrophic (Bibikov et al.1985).”

The trophic ecology of wolves and their predatory role in ungulate communities of forest ecosystems in Europe. Okarma H. Acta theriologica. 1995 Dec

Interesting behaviors:
Steppe wolves have been documented to kill Caspian seals.

“The 2 surveys reported here were able to produce the first detailed distribution density maps not only of different categories of seals but also of their natural predators. Wolves and eagles are the 2 main predators of seal pups in the breeding area (8). Because the numbers of wolves appeared to be low(Table 1), the impact of wolf predation on the total pup mortality on ice was probably insignificant, at least in these 2 years.”

Pup production and breeding distribution of the Caspian seal (Phoca caspica) in relation to human impacts. Harkonen T, Jüssi M, Baimukanov M, Bignert A, Dmitrieva L, Kasimbekov Y, Verevkin M, Wilson S, Goodman SJ. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment. 2008 Jul

Rumyantsev, V. D. and L. S. Khuraskin. 1978. New data on the mortality of the Caspian seal due to wolves. Page 187 in Congress of the All-Union Theriological Society, 2nd (P. A. Panteleev, et al. eds.). Nauka, Moscow, USSR.

Legal and Cultural Background:
The Canis lupus campestris has been hunted as a nuisance for years. It is listed as endangered in the Mongolian Red List of Mammals (2007), and can now only be found in a far south-western part of Russia along the Caspian Sea.

Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK)Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative

The Saiga Conservation Alliance

Taxonomic/Genetic Information:

Complete mitochondrial genome of Canis lupus campestris


Further Reading

Journal / Scientific Publications: 

Protective immune response of oral rabies vaccine in stray dogs, corsacs and steppe wolves after a single immunization; K Zhugunissov, Y Bulatov, D Taranov, Z Yershebulov… – Archives of Virology, 1 August 2017

The Caspian Sea. Aladin N, Plotnikov I. Lake Basin Management Initiative Thematic Paper. 2004 Jun

(“Loss of island status almost always has a negative impact on inhabitants of former island because the territory becomes more available for predators and people. This leads to reduction of the biodiversity of the island. When Cheleken Island turned into a peninsula, wolves, jackals, foxes and stray dogs could easily reach the island not only via ice but also directly via dry seabed. The amount of birds and mammals on the island significantly reduced.”)



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