What does the wolf eat? Assessing the diet of the endangered Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) in northeast Portugal.
ABSTRACT: The Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) is a top predator that inhabits the Iberian Peninsula. In Portugal, its numbers and distribution declined throughout the 20th century, due to human persecution, habitat degradation and prey decline, which have led to higher predation rates of livestock in the remaining packs. In Montesinho Natural Park (northeast Portugal), wild ungulate populations have been increasing in the last years, which may have led wolf to predate upon them. In order to assess Iberian wolf diet in this area, 85 wolf scats were collected from transects distributed throughout the study area in two periods between November 2017 and August 2019. Scat analysis indicated a high predation on wild ungulates, where the frequency of occurrence showed that roe deer was the most consumed prey (44%), followed by red deer (26%) and wild boar (24%). Domestic/wild cat (6%), domestic goat and stone marten (5%) were consumed in lower quantities. It was found a higher selection towards roe deer (D = 0.71) and this was the only prey item which was significantly dependent of the season of the year (?2 = 16.95, df = 3, p < 0.001). This is the first study in Portugal where was recorded that wolves feed mainly on wild ungulates. We conclude that lower livestock predation may be correlated with higher wild ungulates densities in our study area, as well as suitable husbandry practices, leading to a shift on Iberian wolf diet from mainly livestock on previous studies to wild ungulates.
Project description:Top carnivores play an important role in maintaining energy flow and functioning of the ecosystem, and a clear understanding of their diets and foraging strategies is essential for developing effective conservation strategies. In this paper, we compared diets and prey selection of snow leopards and wolves based on analyses of genotyped scats (snow leopards n = 182, wolves n = 57), collected within 26 sampling grid cells (5×5 km) that were distributed across a vast landscape of ca 5000 km2 in the Central Himalayas, Nepal. Within the grid cells, we sampled prey abundances using the double observer method. We found that interspecific differences in diet composition and prey selection reflected their respective habitat preferences, i.e. snow leopards significantly preferred cliff-dwelling wild ungulates (mainly bharal, 57% of identified material in scat samples), whereas wolves preferred typically plain-dwellers (Tibetan gazelle, kiang and argali, 31%). Livestock was consumed less frequently than their proportional availability by both predators (snow leopard = 27%; wolf = 24%), but significant avoidance was only detected among snow leopards. Among livestock species, snow leopards significantly preferred horses and goats, avoided yaks, and used sheep as available. We identified factors influencing diet composition using Generalized Linear Mixed Models. Wolves showed seasonal differences in the occurrence of small mammals/birds, probably due to the winter hibernation of an important prey, marmots. For snow leopard, occurrence of both wild ungulates and livestock in scats depended on sex and latitude. Wild ungulates occurrence increased while livestock decreased from south to north, probably due to a latitudinal gradient in prey availability. Livestock occurred more frequently in scats from male snow leopards (males: 47%, females: 21%), and wild ungulates more frequently in scats from females (males: 48%, females: 70%). The sexual difference agrees with previous telemetry studies on snow leopards and other large carnivores, and may reflect a high-risk high-gain strategy among males.
Project description:The Romanian wolf population, one of the largest in Europe, occupies a total home-range of 154500 km2 and is spread across a variety of landscapes-from anthropized hills and plateaus to remote, densely forested mountains. However, this population is markedly understudied, and even basic knowledge of the species' feeding habits is deficient. Wolf diet was assessed based on 236 scat samples collected between November 2013 and October 2014, by following pre-established transects (total length = 774 km). The study area (600 km2) is a multi-prey ecosystem in the southern sector of the Eastern Romanian Carpathians. Our results emphasize that more than 80% of the wolf diet is based on wild ungulates. The wild boar is clearly selected (D = 0.74) and is the most common species in the diet (Bio = 72%), while roe deer (Bio = 10%) and red deer (Bio = 5%) have a smaller contribution. Domestic species represented the second-largest prey category in both seasons. Among them, dog is a particularly important source of food (Bio 3.5-10.9%). Other domestic species (goat, sheep, horse) have marginal importance in the wolf diet and seasonal occurrence. Standardized niche breadths are low in both seasons (BAw = 0.07, BAs = 0.12), and a high degree of overlap in the resources used has been observed (Ôws = 0.99). Our study represents the first step towards understanding the wolf foraging behaviour in the Romanian Carpathians and is valuable to address the complex issues of wolf and wild ungulate population management and conservation.
Project description: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.
Project description:Reintroductions are important tools for the conservation of individual species, but recently more attention has been paid to the restoration of ecosystem function, and to the importance of carrying out a full risk assessment prior to any reintroduction programme. In much of the Highlands of Scotland, wolves (Canis lupus) were eradicated by 1769, but there are currently proposals for them to be reintroduced. Their main wild prey if reintroduced would be red deer (Cervus elaphus). Red deer are themselves a contentious component of the Scottish landscape. They support a trophy hunting industry but are thought to be close to carrying capacity, and are believed to have a considerable economic and ecological impact. High deer densities hamper attempts to reforest, reduce bird densities and compete with livestock for grazing. Here, we examine the probable consequences for the red deer population of reintroducing wolves into the Scottish Highlands using a structured Markov predator-prey model. Our simulations suggest that reintroducing wolves is likely to generate conservation benefits by lowering deer densities. It would also free deer estates from the financial burden of costly hind culls, which are required in order to achieve the Deer Commission for Scotland's target deer densities. However, a reintroduced wolf population would also carry costs, particularly through increased livestock mortality. We investigated perceptions of the costs and benefits of wolf reintroductions among rural and urban communities in Scotland and found that the public are generally positive to the idea. Farmers hold more negative attitudes, but far less negative than the organizations that represent them.
Project description:An increasing proportion of the world's poor is rearing livestock today, and the global livestock population is growing. Livestock predation by large carnivores and their retaliatory killing is becoming an economic and conservation concern. A common recommendation for carnivore conservation and for reducing predation on livestock is to increase wild prey populations based on the assumption that the carnivores will consume this alternative food. Livestock predation, however, could either reduce or intensify with increases in wild prey depending on prey choice and trends in carnivore abundance. We show that the extent of livestock predation by the endangered snow leopard Panthera uncia intensifies with increases in the density of wild ungulate prey, and subsequently stabilizes. We found that snow leopard density, estimated at seven sites, was a positive linear function of the density of wild ungulates-the preferred prey-and showed no discernible relationship with livestock density. We also found that modelled livestock predation increased with livestock density. Our results suggest that snow leopard conservation would benefit from an increase in wild ungulates, but that would intensify the problem of livestock predation for pastoralists. The potential benefits of increased wild prey abundance in reducing livestock predation can be overwhelmed by a resultant increase in snow leopard populations. Snow leopard conservation efforts aimed at facilitating increases in wild prey must be accompanied by greater assistance for better livestock protection and offsetting the economic damage caused by carnivores.
Project description:Large carnivores are recolonizing many regions in Europe, where their ungulate prey have lived without them for >150 years. Whether the returning large carnivores will modify ungulate behavior and indirectly affect lower trophic levels, depends on the ability of ungulates to recognize risk based on past encounters and cues indicating carnivore presence. In two case studies, we tested, by means of camera trapping, the behavioral response of deer to wolf urine. The first case study was in the Netherlands where deer (still) live in absence of wolves, and the second in Poland with long-term wolf presence. As controls we used water (no scent) and all-purpose soap (unfamiliar scent). Deer vigilance level on control plots was 20% in both case studies indicating that wolf occupancy per se does not lead to a consistent difference in behavior. Placing wolf urine did not significantly affect deer behavior in either the wolf-absent or the wolf-present area. More intense cues, or a combination of cues, are likely needed to affect deer behavior. Moreover, we found an unexpected reaction of deer towards all-purpose soap of reduced foraging (and tendency for increased vigilance) in the wolf-present area, whereas it did not affect deer behavior in the wolf-absent area. We hypothesize that deer associate all-purpose soap with human presence, causing no response in human-dominated landscapes (the Netherlands), but triggering a behavioral reaction in more remote areas (Poland). This illustrates attention should be paid to controls used in scent experiments as they may be associated differently than intended.
Project description:Taeniid species represent relevant pathogens in human and animals, circulating between carnivorous definitive hosts and a variety of mammalian intermediate hosts. In Portugal, however, little is known about their occurrence and life cycles, especially in wild hosts. An epidemiological survey was conducted to clarify the role of the Iberian wolf as a definitive host for taeniid species, including Echinococcus spp. Wolf fecal samples (n = 68) were collected from two regions in Northern Portugal. Taeniid eggs were isolated through a sieving-flotation technique, and species identification was performed using multiplex-PCR followed by sequencing of the amplicons. Taenia hydatigena (in 11.8% of the samples), Taenia serialis (5.9%), Taenia pisiformis (2.9%), Taenia polyacantha (1.5%) and Echinococcus intermedius (Echinococcus granulosus 'pig strain', G7) (1.5%) were detected. This is the first study to characterize the taeniid species infecting the Portuguese Iberian wolf, with the first records of T. polyacantha and E. intermedius in this species in the Iberian Peninsula. Iberian wolves can be regarded as relevant hosts for the maintenance of the wild and synanthropic cycles of taeniids in Portugal.
Project description:The impact of predation on prey populations has long been a focus of ecologists, but a firm understanding of the factors influencing prey selection, a key predictor of that impact, remains elusive. High levels of variability observed in prey selection may reflect true differences in the ecology of different communities but might also reflect a failure to deal adequately with uncertainties in the underlying data. Indeed, our review showed that less than 10% of studies of European wolf predation accounted for sampling uncertainty. Here, we relate annual variability in wolf diet to prey availability and examine temporal patterns in prey selection; in particular, we identify how considering uncertainty alters conclusions regarding prey selection.Over nine years, we collected 1,974 wolf scats and conducted drive censuses of ungulates in Alpe di Catenaia, Italy. We bootstrapped scat and census data within years to construct confidence intervals around estimates of prey use, availability and selection. Wolf diet was dominated by boar (61.5 ± 3.90 [SE] % of biomass eaten) and roe deer (33.7 ± 3.61%). Temporal patterns of prey densities revealed that the proportion of roe deer in wolf diet peaked when boar densities were low, not when roe deer densities were highest. Considering only the two dominant prey types, Manly's standardized selection index using all data across years indicated selection for boar (mean = 0.73 ± 0.023). However, sampling error resulted in wide confidence intervals around estimates of prey selection. Thus, despite considerable variation in yearly estimates, confidence intervals for all years overlapped. Failing to consider such uncertainty could lead erroneously to the assumption of differences in prey selection among years. This study highlights the importance of considering temporal variation in relative prey availability and accounting for sampling uncertainty when interpreting the results of dietary studies.
Project description:BACKGROUND: In many areas, livestock are grazed within wolf (Canis lupus) range. Predation and harassment of livestock by wolves creates conflict and is a significant challenge for wolf conservation. Wild prey, such as elk (Cervus elaphus), perform anti-predator behaviors. Artificial selection of cattle (Bos taurus) might have resulted in attenuation or absence of anti-predator responses, or in erratic and inconsistent responses. Regardless, such responses might have implications on stress and fitness. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We compared elk and cattle anti-predator responses to wolves in southwest Alberta, Canada within home ranges and livestock pastures, respectively. We deployed satellite- and GPS-telemetry collars on wolves, elk, and cattle (n = 16, 10 and 78, respectively) and measured seven prey response variables during periods of wolf presence and absence (speed, path sinuosity, time spent head-up, distance to neighboring animals, terrain ruggedness, slope and distance to forest). During independent periods of wolf presence (n = 72), individual elk increased path sinuosity (Z = -2.720, P = 0.007) and used more rugged terrain (Z = -2.856, P = 0.004) and steeper slopes (Z = -3.065, P = 0.002). For cattle, individual as well as group behavioral analyses were feasible and these indicated increased path sinuosity (Z = -2.720, P = 0.007) and decreased distance to neighbors (Z = -2.551, P = 0.011). In addition, cattle groups showed a number of behavioral changes concomitant to wolf visits, with variable direction in changes. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our results suggest both elk and cattle modify their behavior in relation to wolf presence, with potential energetic costs. Our study does not allow evaluating the efficacy of anti-predator behaviors, but indicates that artificial selection did not result in their absence in cattle. The costs of wolf predation on livestock are often compensated considering just the market value of the animal killed. However, society might consider refunding some additional costs (e.g., weight loss and reduced reproduction) that might be associated with the changes in cattle behaviors that we documented.
Project description:Our previous studies indicated that a cocktail of pyrazine analogs, identified in wolf urine, induced avoidance and fear behaviors in mice. The effects of the pyrazine cocktail on Hokkaido deer (Cervus nippon yesoensis) were investigated in field bioassays at a deer park in Hokkaido, Japan. A set of feeding bioassay trials tested the effects of the pyrazine cocktail odor on the behavior of the deer located around a feeding area in August and September 2013. This odor effectively suppressed the approach of the deer to the feeding area. In addition, the pyrazine cocktail odor provoked fear-related behaviors, such as "tail-flag", "flight" and "jump" actions, of the deer around the feeding area. This study is the first experimental demonstration that the pyrazine analogs in wolf urine have robust and continual fearful aversive effects on ungulates as well as mice. The pyrazine cocktail might be suitable for a chemical repellent that could limit damage to forests and agricultural crops by wild ungulates.