Urine urea–creatinine ratio (U:C) often is used as an index of nutritional status of wild mammals, especially because urine can be collected from snow, providing a non-invasive index of nutrition. The rate of creatinine excretion has been assumed to be relatively stable; thus, creatinine concentration is used to normalize urea concentrations and control for dilution in snow. We present data from captive wolves (Canis lupus) to test how much variation in U:C is due to variation in urea vs. creatinine in relation to time since feeding. We found that U:C increases for ∼18 hours post-feeding but that this variation is primarily due to the 5-fold decrease in creatinine rather than the 2-fold increase in urea concentration. It is not clear what governs the variable creatinine concentrations in urine. Until a fuller understanding of this metabolite is achieved, ecological studies employing this nutritional index should report urea and creatinine values as well as the ratio. Physiological studies should explore the causes of variation in creatinine concentrations in urine.
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