Human activity displaces predators more than prey

Mar 03, 2011

A new paper by University of Calgary researchers, published today in PLoS ONE, demonstrates the edge given to prey in the “space race” by human activity.

The research was conducted by two University of Calgary students, a University of Calgary Post-Doctoral Fellow and two University of Calgary professors from the Faculty of Environmental Design, Department of Geomatics in the Schulich School of Engineering and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. The research looked at how predator-prey interactions and use of space were influenced by .

The team deployed 43 digital camera traps at randomly selected locations along roads and trails within a research area on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in southwest Alberta from April to November of 2008. Large predator animals in the study area consisted of wolves, black bears, grizzly bears and cougars. While the large herbivore species monitored were moose, elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer and cattle.

They found that humans and species co-occurred together more often than humans and at camera sites, and that predators and prey were less likely to be in the same area if there was heavy human traffic. Their results showed that prey were three times more abundant on roads and trails used by more than 32 humans a day, but predators were less abundant on roads and trails used by more than 18 humans a day.

"The research shows that humans might displace large mammalian predators,” says Tyler Muhly, corresponding author of the paper and a PhD graduate from the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary (currently with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures). “This provides a positive indirect effect on large mammalian prey species that are less sensitive to humans.”

The research suggests that limiting human use of roads and trails in wildlife areas to less than 18 people a day might reduce the effects on the large mammalian food web, but a growing human population means that the effects on wildlife food webs will likely increase.

Explore further: Salmon forced to 'sprint' less likely to survive migration

More information: The full paper can be found at www.plosone.org .

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Prey not hard-wired to fear predators

Jun 20, 2007

Are Asian elk hard-wired to fear the Siberian tigers who stalk them? When wolves disappear from the forest, are moose still afraid of them?

There's no such thing as a picky grizzly bear

Feb 22, 2007

A new University of Alberta study, which tracked eating habits of grizzly bears living in the Alberta foothills, sheds some light on the animal's varied diet and their activity pattern.

Grizzly bears feast on diverse diet

Feb 15, 2007

There’s no such thing as picky grizzly bears—they’ll eat almost anything they can find. A new University of Alberta study that tracked food habits of the Alberta grizzly bear living in the foothills sheds ...

Iberian wolves prefer wild roe deer to domestic animals

Oct 23, 2009

A Spanish researcher has analysed the preferences of wolves from the north east of the Iberian Peninsula to demonstrate that, in reality, their favourite prey are roe deer, deer and wild boar, ahead of domestic ...

Recommended for you

Genetically tracking farmed fish escaping into the wild

Aug 20, 2014

European sea product consumption is on the rise. With overfishing being a threat to the natural balance of the ocean, the alternative is to turn to aquaculture, the industrial production of fish and seafood. ...

France fights back Asian hornet invader

Aug 20, 2014

They slipped into southwest France 10 years ago in a pottery shipment from China and have since invaded more than half the country, which is fighting back with drones, poisoned rods and even chickens.

Tide turns for shark fin in China

Aug 20, 2014

A sprawling market floor in Guangzhou was once a prime location for shark fin, one of China's most expensive delicacies. But now it lies deserted, thanks to a ban from official banquet tables and a celebrity-driven ...

Manatees could lose their endangered species status

Aug 19, 2014

About 2,500 manatees have perished in Florida over the last four years, heightening tension between conservationists and property owners as federal officials prepare to decide whether to down-list the creature to threatened ...

User comments : 0