Longest known dispersal of wolf in Europe

M237 was born in the canton of Grisons, was radio-collared by the Office for Hunting and Fishing of the Canton of Grisons and migrated hundreds of kilometres east to the Hungarian-Slovakian border from June 2022 to March 2023. Thus, the canton of Grisons succeeded in documenting the longest dispersal of a wolf in Europe known so far.  

Start in the Grisons
M237 was born in 2021 as one of 6 cubs (4 of them genetically identified) of the Stagias pack. His parents are F31, a descendant of F07, the founder of the first Swiss wolf pack at Calanda, and M125 (origin unknown). At the end of March 2022, M237 was caught and fitted with a collar with GPS transmitter by the Office for Hunting and Fishing of the Canton of Grisons. By 22 March 2023, his transmitter already provided data, which are very interesting for research, as M237 started his migration according to his age a few months after being radio-collared, in June 2022. Before that he stayed in his pack of origin.

The long dispersal of M237
During its journey, the young wolf passed through four countries. Starting in Switzerland, he crossed the border into Italy in the Lower Engadine at the end of June 2022. During his time in Switzerland, a single genetic sample was recorded from him, taken on the day of his collaring. For about ten days he roamed the South Tyrol and then crossed the border to Austria. From then on, he went north, then later north-east. In October, he was in the region of Innsbruck, from where he continued through the Tyrol towards Vienna. He spent the turn of the year west of the Austrian capital. The young wolf then wandered up to the Danube, then changed its mind and moved off in a south-easterly direction. In mid-February, it crossed the Hungarian border and then migrated towards Budapest. It took him about a month to pass the city in the west and cross the Danube. After that he migrated in the direction of Slovakia.

The dispersal of M237, 9.6.2022 – 22.03.2023, © AJF GR

The dispersal of M237 exemplifies how adaptable wolves are. On its migration, it crossed different landscapes, from high mountains to cultivated landscapes to settlement areas. He crossed rivers, numerous highways as well as many mountains, one of them nearly 3500 m high. Mostly, he wandered purposefully in one direction. Now and then he also stayed for a few days to about two weeks in one place, perhaps to rest, perhaps because of good food supply, before he moved on.

Young wolves leave the parental territory at the age of 1-3 years in search of their own. Research shows that the dispersal of young wolves can vary in distance and can differ with sex. Males tend to disperse farther than females. In the past, some radio-collared wolves showed particular eagerness to explore and dispersed surprisingly far. According to the information from KORA, M237 is demonstrably wolf with the farthest dispersal in Europe with a distance of 1927 km on the ground (829km linear distance) (referance date 22.03.2023) - and his journey may go even further. In comparison, the migration of the German wolf «Alan» is also well documented. In 2009, he migrated from Germany to Belarus - about 1550 km. Two years later, it was possible to track the GPS signal of wolf «Slavc», which moved from Slovenia to Italy - almost 1200 km. «Slavc», coming from the Dinaric population, subsequently mated with a female from the Alpine population. That was the first known evidence of a link between the two populations. In general, long-distance migrants are very important for linking populations. M237, too, is now not very far from the area of another wolf population, the Carpathian population.