Diet and wild ungulate preferences of wolves in northwestern Anatolia during winter.
ABSTRACT: The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is making a comeback in many habitats in central Europe, where it has been once extirpated. Although densities are still low to moderate, this comeback already raises management concerns. In Anatolia, the gray wolf is one of the most common predator species occupying almost all kind of habitats. Although its numbers were reduced in some parts of the country, it has never been extirpated and lived in sympatry with humans. In this study we investigated, for the first time, the winter diet of wolves in north-west Anatolia, where a multispecies wild ungulate community occurs in sympatry with high density livestock. We selected two geographically close but different habitats (steppe and forest) with different wild prey availabilities and compositions. In both areas ungulate contribution to winter diet biomass was more than 90%. Wolf pack size (four to eight wolves) were higher in the study area where livestock numbers and human disturbance were lower and wild prey were more available. In both study areas, wild boar (Sus scrofa) was the main and most preferred food item (Chesson's ? = 0.7 - 0.9) and it occurred at higher density where wolf pack size was smaller. We could not find a high preference (Chesson's ? = 0.3) and high winter predation pressure on the reintroduced Anatolian wild sheep (Ovis gmelinii anatolica) population that occurs in the study area covered by steppe vegetation. Contribution of livestock and food categories other than wild ungulates to wolf diet stayed low. Wolves can help mitigate human-wildlife conflict regulating wild boar numbers, the most common conflict-causing ungulate species in Anatolia. Instead of managing wolf numbers in human dominated landscapes, we recommend reintroduction of wild ungulates to the areas where they became locally extinct and replaced by livestock.
PROVIDER: S-EPMC6708370 | BioStudies |