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Influences of Predator Cues on the Incidence of Ungulates, Mesopredators and Top Predators in the Greater Khingan Mountains, Northeastern China

Influences of Predator Cues on the Incidence of Ungulates, Mesopredators and Top Predators in the Greater Khingan Mountains, Northeastern China

Hamenya Mpemba1, Fan Yang1, Kirsty J. MacLeod2,3, Dusu Wen1, Yan Liu1,4 and Guangshun Jiang1,*

1Feline Research Center of National Forestry and Grassland Administration, College of Wildlife and Protected Area, Northeast Forestry University, 26 Hexing Road, Harbin, Heilongjiang 150040, P.R. China
2Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Pennsylvania National University, Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802, USA
3Department of Biology, Lund University, Sölvegatan 37, 223 62 Lund, Sweden
4General Station for Surveillance of Wildlife-Borne Infectious Diseases, State Forestry and Grassland Administration, Shenyang, Liaoning Province, 110034, PR China
 
Hamenya Mpemba and Fan Yang have contributed equllay to this article.
 
*      Corresponding author: jgshun@126.com

ABSTRACT

Top predators can affect the behaviour of prey species via lethal (direct kill) or non-lethal effects (i.e., through predation risk). For example, prey species may move from areas perceived as risky to safer spaces where predation risk is lower, which can have important consequences for investment in foraging, movement, and mating, and for the behaviour and habitat use of other species, such as mesopredators. These changes in prey and mesopredator behaviours are likely mediated by the presence of predator cues in the environment. Here, we test how different predator cues (visual and odor) from familiar and novel predators (brown bear and Amur tiger, respectively) influence ungulate, mesopredator, and top predator visitation rates to camera trap sites in a national nature reserve in China. The comparison of these predator types is of particular interest in this region as Amur tigers may shortly be reintroduced here. We found that visual but not odour cues significantly affected ungulate visitation rates: ungulates showed reduced visitation to sites with either a novel or familiar visual predator cue. When combined, mesopredators and top predators also showed a small reduction in visitation rates to tiger cue sites compared to bear cue sites, suggesting a possible novel predator effect. The generalisation and contextual importance of predator cues for prey and mesopredators have been little studied. Understanding how species respond to novel cues may help to determine extinction probabilities and overall plasticity in the face of change. This study is, therefore, an important step forward in understanding predator cue responses at the community level. This is also the first study to test the ecological function of Amur tiger cues in the wild environment and may serve as essential information in the rewilding process of captive Amur tiger plans.

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Pakistan Journal of Zoology

December

Vol. 54, Iss. 6, Pages 2501-3000

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