Scott Creel

311-A Lewis Hall
Conservation Biology & Ecology Program
Department of Ecology

Montana State University
Bozeman MT 59717
Phone: 406-994-7033


Current Research

General Areas of Interest:  Behavioral ecology, population biology, conservation, behavioral endocrinology, evolutionary ecology.  Virtually all of my research is based on field studies, generally using observational methods, and often following known individuals.  Much of the work in my lab has involved the integration of behavioral and demographic data from the field with physiological and genetic data from the lab.  My lab is equipped for extraction and enzyme immunoassays of steroid and peptide hormones, microhistology and other assays

My current research mainly examines risk effects, or the costs of antipredator responses by prey species.  Recent research with many species has shown that direct killing constitutes only a fraction of the total limiting effect of predators on their prey.  We have recently examined the responses of elk to variation in the risk of predation by wolves, including changes in behavior, group size, habitat selection, feeding ecology, and spatial distributionsWe related these responses to changes in nutrition, physiology, demography and population dynamics. This work won the 2010 Carl Gustav Bernhard Medal from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Our primary field research is now with the Zambian Carnivore Programme, headed by Dr. Matt Becker, to examine risk effects and carnivore conservation in three ecosystems (Liuwa, South Luangwa and Kafue National Parks), with several species of predators and prey.  This work aims to measure variation in direct predation rates and risk effects, to identify the ecological factors that drive this variation, and provide data for the conservation and management of predators and prey.  In this work, we are studying African wild dogs, lions, spotted hyenas, cheetahs and leopards, together with their primary prey, which varies among species and ecosystems, but notably includes wildebeest, impala, oribi and zebra
My students and I address these questions with a variet
y of methods, including behavioral observations (old fashioned but still irreplaceable), demographic & ecological monitoring, ground and aerial censuses, camera trapping, GPS and VHF radiotelemetry, enzyme immunoassay of fecal steroid metabolites to measure pregnancy rates and glucocorticoid stress responses, measurements of abiotic factors such as weather and soil nutrients, and assessments of diet quality by chemical, radioisotope and microhistological methods.

roan and

awd kafue

busanga brothers


  Recent Publications: 

My papers are on ResearchGate, and those from the last  couple of years are listed below.

AWD book cover

awd coverwill burrard lucas AWD photo

Creel S, M’soka J, Dröge E, Rosenblatt E, Becker M, Matandiko W, Simpamba T. 2016. Assessing the sustainability of African lion trophy hunting, with recommendations for policy. Ecological Applications, in press.

 Schuette P, Creel S & Christianson D. 2016. Ungulate distributions in a rangeland with competitors, predators, and pastoralists. Journal of Applied Ecology  DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12610

Rosenblatt, E., Creel, S., Becker, M. S., Merkle, J., Mwape, H., Schuette, P., & Simpamba, T. 2016. Effects of a protection gradient on carnivore density and survival: an example with leopards in the Luangwa valley, Zambia. Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2155

Scott Creel, Matthew Becker, David Christianson, Egil Dröge, Neil Hammerschlag, Matt W. Hayward, Ullas Karanth, Andrew Loveridge, David W. Macdonald, Wigganson Matandiko, Jassiel M’soka, Dennis Murray, Elias Rosenblatt, Paul Schuette. 2015. Questionable policy for large carnivore hunting.  Science 350:  1473-1475 (PDF)

Creel S. & Creel N.M. 2015.  Opposing effects of group size on reproduction and survival in African wild dogs.  Behavioral Ecology 26: 1414-1422.
Brennan A, Cross P & Creel S.  2015 Managing more than the mean: using quantile regression to uncover relationships with large elk groups and inform management.  Journal of Applied Ecology, 52(6), 1656-1664.

Foley, A.M., Cross, P., Christianson, D, Scurlock, B & Creel S. 2015.  Influences of supplemental feeding on winter elk calf:cow ratios in the Southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  Journal of Wildlife Management,
79(6), 887-897.

Nelson  J.L,  Creel S & Cypher B.L. 2015. Fecal glucocorticoid levels of endangered San Joaquin kit foxes (Vulpes macrotis mutica) in natural and urban habitats.Western North American Naturalist 75(1): 52–57.
Durant, S.M., Becker, M.S., Creel, S., Bashir, S., Dickman, A.J., Beudels-Jamar, R.C., Lichtenfeld, L., Hilborn, R., Wall, J., Wittemyer, G., Badamjav L., Blake, S., Boitani, L., Breitenmoser, C., Broekhuis, F., Christianson, D., Cozzi, G., Davenport, T.R.B., Deutsch, J., Devillers, P., Dollar, L., Dolrenry, S., Douglas-Hamilton, I., Dröge, E., FitzHerbert, E., Foley, C., Hazzah, L., Hopcraft, J.G.C., Ikanda, D., Jacobson, A., Joubert, D., Kelly, M.J., Milanzi, J., Mitchell, N., M’Soka, J., Msuha, M., Mweetwa, T., Nyahongo, J., Rosenblatt, E., Schuette, P., Sillero-Zubiri, C., Sinclair, A.R.E., Stanley-Price, M. R., Zimmermann, A., Pettorelli, N. 2015.  Developing fencing policies for dryland ecosystems.  Journal of Applied Ecology

(PDF) Christianson D & Creel S 2015.  Photosynthetic pigments estimate diet quality in elk (Cervus elaphus) feces and forage.  Canadian Journal of Zoology  93: 51–59

(PDF) Rosenblatt E., Becker M, Creel S, Droge E, Mweetwa T, Schuette P, Watson F, Merkle, J, Mwape H 2014. Detecting declines of apex carnivores and evaluating their causes: an example with Zambian lions.  Biological Conservation 180: 176-186.

(PDFChristianson D & Creel S  2014. Ecosystem scale declines in elk recruitment and population growth with wolf colonization: a before-after-control-impact approach. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102330. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.010233

(PDF) Creel S, Schuette P & Christianson D 2014.  Effects of predation risk on group size, vigilance and foraging behavior in an African ungulate community.  Behavioral Ecology 25 (4): 773-784

Brennan, A., P. C. Cross, M. D. Higgs, W. H. Edwards, B. M. Scurlock, and S. Creel. 2014. A multi-scale assessment of animal aggregation patterns to understand increasing pathogen seroprevalence. Ecosphere 5(10):138.

Benavides JA Cross PC, Luikart G & Creel S 2014  Limitations to estimating bacterial cross-species transmission using genetic and genomic markers: inferences from simulation modelling.  Evolutionary Ecology, advanced online doi: 10.1111/eva.12173.


Graduate Students:
Current graduate students  in my group, and former graduate students with a brief summary on their fates.   I encourage my graduate students to participate fully in developing their own research questions and to pursue independent funding.  Here are some brief notes on the process of writing a paper, and here are some ideas about preparing for the qualifying exam.

Older Research:

From 1984-1986, I studied beh
avioral and physiological mechanisms that mediate the effects of early experience on milk production in Holstein dairy cattle. I am consequently one of a small set of people who know how to make cows urinate on demand.  Really.

From 1987-1990, my wife Na
ncy and I studied evolutionary, behavioral and physiological aspects of cooperative breeding in dwarf mongooses (Helogale parvula) in Serengeti National Park, working with Dr. Peter Waser and Dr Jon Rood, for my PhD at Purdue.  This work involved using demographic and molecular genetic data to calculate inclusive fitness costs and benefits, and using behavioral and endocrine data to identify the mechanisms responsible for reproductive suppression in socially subordinate adults. 

From 1991-1996, Nancy and I studied African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in the Selous Game Reserve.  At  roughly 80,000 square kilometers, the Selous is one of the largest protected areas in the world, but its ecology is  little-studied.   Our project focused initially on simply assessing the size of the wild dog population in Selous (a formidable task in itself), and progressed to identifying the ecological factors that cause wild dogs to be endangered, with invariably low densities in comparison to other large carnivores.  In this regard, interspecific competition plays a major role in limiting wild dog numbers and distributions.  We also used demographic data to make quantitative assessments of extinction risk, and collected a substantial data set on prey selection, predator-prey interactions and the costs/benefits of cooperative hunting. Finally we examined social evolution and behavioral and endocrine mechanisms of reproductive suppression in wild dogs, in a manner similar to our earlier work with dwarf mongooses.  The major results of this work are found in  in Creel S & Creel N 2002. The African wild dog: behavior, ecology and conservation.  Princeton University Press.