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Behavioral responses associated with a human-mediated predator shelter

Shannon, G. and Cordes, L.S. and Hardy, A.R. and Angeloni, L.M. and Crooks, K.R. (2014) Behavioral responses associated with a human-mediated predator shelter. PLOS One, 9 (4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094630

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Abstract

Human activities in protected areas can affect wildlife populations in a similar manner to predation risk, causing increases in movement and vigilance, shifts in habitat use and changes in group size. Nevertheless, recent evidence indicates that in certain situations ungulate species may actually utilize areas associated with higher levels of human presence as a potential refuge from disturbance-sensitive predators. We now use four-years of behavioral activity budget data collected from pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) and elk (Cervus elephus) in Grand Teton National Park, USA to test whether predictable patterns of human presence can provide a shelter from predatory risk. Daily behavioral scans were conducted along two parallel sections of road that differed in traffic volume - with the main Teton Park Road experiencing vehicle use that was approximately thirty-fold greater than the River Road. At the busier Teton Park Road, both species of ungulate engaged in higher levels of feeding (27% increase in the proportion of pronghorn feeding and 21% increase for elk), lower levels of alert behavior (18% decrease for pronghorn and 9% decrease for elk) and formed smaller groups. These responses are commonly associated with reduced predatory threat. Pronghorn also exhibited a 30% increase in the proportion of individuals moving at the River Road as would be expected under greater exposure to predation risk. Our findings concur with the �predator shelter hypothesis�, suggesting that ungulates in GTNP use human presence as a potential refuge from predation risk, adjusting their behavior accordingly. Human activity has the potential to alter predator-prey interactions and drive trophic-mediated effects that could ultimately impact ecosystem function and biodiversity.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Research Publications
Departments: College of Natural Sciences > School of Ocean Sciences
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2015 02:17
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2015 02:40
ISSN: 1932-6203
URI: http://e.bangor.ac.uk/id/eprint/4802
Identification Number: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094630
Publisher: Public Library of Science
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