Short-term foraging responses of a generalist predator to management-driven resource pulses.

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Tuesday, 1st December 2015

Fourie, R.M., Tambling, C.J., Gaylard, A., Kerley, G.I.H.

African Journal of Ecology. Volume 53, Issue 4, pages 521–530, December 2015

ABSTRACT:

Generalist predators characteristically switch prey in response to resource pulses. Ungulate population reinforcement through translocation provides stressed and vulnerable prey, and apex predator reintroduction provides carrion, both resources that can be exploited by generalist predators. We investigated the dietary response of black-backed jackal to two management interventions in the Karoo National Park, South Africa, namely the reinforcement of the springbok population, and then the reintroduction of lions.

By analysing jackal diets from scats collected before and after each management intervention, we show that the relative per cent occurrence and biomass consumed of springbok increased in the diet following the population reinforcement of springbok. In contrast, large ungulates were more prevalent in the diet following apex predator reintroduction. These results suggest that jackals took advantage of a potentially vulnerable abundant springbok population following their population reinforcement, and then switched to foraging on carrion provided by reintroduced lions. These results provide insights into the dietary response of a generalist mesopredator to management interventions. A key lesson from the study is that the diet of generalist predators is context-dependent and should be interpreted in that light.

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