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A Landscape of Fear: Behavioural Responses in Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) to Risk Effects posed by Wolves (Canis lupus) and Human Hunters in a European Primeval Forest

Proudman, Nathan (2018) BIOM01 20171
Degree Projects in Biology
Abstract
In Białowieża primeval forest (BPF) wolves Canis lupus supress red deer Cervus elaphus foraging via behaviourally-mediated, non-consumptive effects. Humans provide an additional risk factor differentially exhibited between areas devoid of human intervention and areas with high human hunting and foresting activity. The aim of the study was to test the behavioural responses of red deer to risk effects from both wolves and human hunters on a landscape and fine scale across two different management-type zones. Understanding how human activity influences natural predator-prey interactions in highly disturbed systems is important when considering conservation policy and the implications of carnivore reintroductions in Europe. Using a large... (More)
In Białowieża primeval forest (BPF) wolves Canis lupus supress red deer Cervus elaphus foraging via behaviourally-mediated, non-consumptive effects. Humans provide an additional risk factor differentially exhibited between areas devoid of human intervention and areas with high human hunting and foresting activity. The aim of the study was to test the behavioural responses of red deer to risk effects from both wolves and human hunters on a landscape and fine scale across two different management-type zones. Understanding how human activity influences natural predator-prey interactions in highly disturbed systems is important when considering conservation policy and the implications of carnivore reintroductions in Europe. Using a large database collected via camera trapping between 2009 and 2017, as well as video footage from a specified transect spanning 63km of BPF, the distribution and vigilance behaviour of red deer were calculated in response to gradients of human and wolf risk. It was found that red deer avoid areas associated with high wolf presence and preferentially select areas exhibiting reduced human hunting and disturbance. This infers a trade-off of risk response between human and wolf related risk and is likely augmented by some degree of human shield effect, in which humans can indirectly provide deer with refuge areas from predators. Red deer also responded to increased likelihood of wolf encounter by increasing their vigilance behaviour in those areas, but did not show a significant response in vigilance between managed and unmanaged areas. Females with dependent young showed the strongest response to wolf-related risk, both spatially and behaviourally, suggesting differential responses to risk between vulnerable age/sex groups. Increases in observed vigilance in association with areas of larger average group sizes infer the effect of group composition, conspecific observation, temporal variation and fine-scale variations in habitat on vigilance behaviour. This study highlights the potential anthropogenic impacts on the anti-predatory behaviour between and within ungulate populations in conjunction with natural predation. (Less)
Popular Abstract
In a Landscape of Fear, Do Prey Differentially Respond to Risk?

In Białowieża primeval Forest (BPF) in Poland, red deer (Cervus elaphus) must make decisions based on risks from both their natural predators, wolves (Canis lupus), and from human hunters. These decisions must balance the costs of maintaining anti-predatory behaviours, whilst weighing context-dependent variations of risk.

Wolves can supress deer foraging by non-consumptive fear effects, in which the risk of predation causes their prey to dedicate more time to vigilance to avoid being killed. This can consequently have several implications for plant species, with wolves effectuating a cascading effect throughout the food chain. Deer often reduce their risk of predation by... (More)
In a Landscape of Fear, Do Prey Differentially Respond to Risk?

In Białowieża primeval Forest (BPF) in Poland, red deer (Cervus elaphus) must make decisions based on risks from both their natural predators, wolves (Canis lupus), and from human hunters. These decisions must balance the costs of maintaining anti-predatory behaviours, whilst weighing context-dependent variations of risk.

Wolves can supress deer foraging by non-consumptive fear effects, in which the risk of predation causes their prey to dedicate more time to vigilance to avoid being killed. This can consequently have several implications for plant species, with wolves effectuating a cascading effect throughout the food chain. Deer often reduce their risk of predation by shifting habitat use away from areas associated with high predation risk, as well as increasing their levels of vigilance in these high-risk areas. As wolves often avoid areas of high human activity, humans can provide deer with safe-space refuge areas, which exhibit reduced levels of predation risk. However, as human hunters can provide an additional mortality factor, red deer must weigh the two sources of risk and respond accordingly.

Predation by wolves is non-random, and often favours young or old/disadvantaged individuals. Human hunters are also often biased towards adult male deer. Due to this, individuals will face differing levels of risk from humans and wolves, depending on their age, sex or condition. As BPF provides an ideal environment, with natural predator-prey interactions and differential levels of protection from hunting, a camera trap database was used to examine the effects of humans and wolves on the spatial distribution and vigilance behaviour of red deer. Are there differences in abundance and vigilance levels between high and low-risk areas? Are there differences in response between more vulnerable age/sex classes?

Results showed that red deer distribute themselves away from high wolf-risk areas and toward protected areas and reserves, suggesting an existent trade-off between wolf and human risk response. The spatial response to wolves was most prominent in juveniles and their dependencies, as they are at most risk from predation. Red deer also increased their vigilance levels in areas with high predation risk, most ardently among females with young. Increases in vigilance in association with larger group sizes infer the effects of group composition, habitat deviations, within-species observation and temporal differences on behaviour.

As humans provide an additional fear factor for red deer, they in-turn influence the natural predator-prey interactions that occur in European forests. Humans play an ecological role in landscapes of fear and it is important when considering the highly-urbanised systems of Europe, and the consequences of possible carnivore re-introductions and land-use management for the future.

Master’s Degree Project in Biology: Animal Ecology, 30 credits.
Department of Biology, Lund University

Advisor: Dries Kuijper
Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Proudman, Nathan
supervisor
organization
course
BIOM01 20171
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
English
id
8938381
date added to LUP
2018-04-05 13:59:39
date last changed
2018-04-05 13:59:39
@misc{8938381,
  abstract     = {In Białowieża primeval forest (BPF) wolves Canis lupus supress red deer Cervus elaphus foraging via behaviourally-mediated, non-consumptive effects. Humans provide an additional risk factor differentially exhibited between areas devoid of human intervention and areas with high human hunting and foresting activity. The aim of the study was to test the behavioural responses of red deer to risk effects from both wolves and human hunters on a landscape and fine scale across two different management-type zones. Understanding how human activity influences natural predator-prey interactions in highly disturbed systems is important when considering conservation policy and the implications of carnivore reintroductions in Europe. Using a large database collected via camera trapping between 2009 and 2017, as well as video footage from a specified transect spanning 63km of BPF, the distribution and vigilance behaviour of red deer were calculated in response to gradients of human and wolf risk. It was found that red deer avoid areas associated with high wolf presence and preferentially select areas exhibiting reduced human hunting and disturbance. This infers a trade-off of risk response between human and wolf related risk and is likely augmented by some degree of human shield effect, in which humans can indirectly provide deer with refuge areas from predators. Red deer also responded to increased likelihood of wolf encounter by increasing their vigilance behaviour in those areas, but did not show a significant response in vigilance between managed and unmanaged areas. Females with dependent young showed the strongest response to wolf-related risk, both spatially and behaviourally, suggesting differential responses to risk between vulnerable age/sex groups. Increases in observed vigilance in association with areas of larger average group sizes infer the effect of group composition, conspecific observation, temporal variation and fine-scale variations in habitat on vigilance behaviour. This study highlights the potential anthropogenic impacts on the anti-predatory behaviour between and within ungulate populations in conjunction with natural predation.},
  author       = {Proudman, Nathan},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {A Landscape of Fear: Behavioural Responses in Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) to Risk Effects posed by Wolves (Canis lupus) and Human Hunters in a European Primeval Forest},
  year         = {2018},
}