Computer 'voice print' recognizes wolves in the wild by their howls

July 22, 2013 at 5:40 PM
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NOTTINGHAM, England, July 22 (UPI) -- British scientists say it may soon be possible to monitor individual wolves in the wild by just their howls, which are unique to each wolf.

Researchers at Nottingham Trent University who developed a computer program to analyze the vocal signatures of eastern gray wolves said they could recognize the howls of individual wolves with 100 percent accuracy, the BBC reported Monday.

Conservationists say tracking wolves visually is very difficult because individual animals roam about huge home ranges, so an additional tracking technology would be welcome.

"Wolves howl a lot in the wild," Nottingham doctoral student Holly Root-Gutteridge, who led the research, said.

"Now we can be sure... exactly which wolf it is that's howling."

The researchers' computer program analyzes both volume and pitch of wolf howls, helping to identify individuals.

"Think of [pitch] as the note the wolf is singing," Root-Gutteridge said. "What we've added now is the amplitude -- or volume -- which is basically how loud it's singing at different times.

"It's a bit like language: If you put the stress in different places you form a different sound."

Wolves use their distinctive howls to warn rivals off their territory and communicate with other pack members, she said.

"They enjoy it as a group activity. When you get a chorus howl going they all join in."

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