The Indian grey wolf Canis lupus pallipes occupies a top predator niche in arid and semi-arid open plains and grasslands of India. It faces a series of threats including loss of grasslands to agriculture and industrial expansion, modification of habitats, depletion of its natural prey, retaliatory killing, and disease spread through feral dogs.
Here we report a southernmost distribution extension for the Indian grey wolf in the district of Chamarajanagara in southwest India. Previous studies have not documented this species from the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka. The most recent distributional range of the Indian grey wolf to the current documentation is about 170km northwest, so our finding extends the southern limit of this subspecies.
This record also documents the first photographic evidence of the Indian grey wolf from Chamarajanagara district, Karnataka. We assume that the documented grey wolf is a transient/dispersing individual, as previous large-scale sampling efforts have not documented the presence of this canid. The landscape in and around the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary has the potential to host small populations of Indian grey wolves due to the presence of suitable habitat and prey.
However, conversion of grasslands and dryland agriculture to permanent, irrigated crops such as banana and sugarcane pose a threat through modification of habitat. Considering that grey wolves require large home ranges, it warrants adopting a landscape approach where a network of suitable habitats is available to conserve a healthy population. Since the Indian grey wolf is one of the least studied carnivore species in India, any new distributional information will help in conservation and management.
Hence, systematic and periodic occupancy surveys should be carried out to understand any changes in distribution so that colonisation, recolonisation, and local extinction can be scientifically monitored.