Depredation of livestock by large carnivores is an important but poorly understood source of human–carnivore conflict. We examined patterns of livestock depredation by jaguars (Panthera onca) and pumas (Puma concolor) on a ranch–wildlife reserve in western Brazil to assess factors contributing to prey mortality. We predicted jaguars would kill a greater proportion of calves than yearling and adult cattle and that proximity to suitable habitat would increase mortality risk. We further speculated that exposure to predation risk would promote livestock grouping and increased movement distance. We recorded 169 cattle mortality incidents during 2003–2004, of which 19% were due to predation by jaguars and pumas. This level of mortality represented 0.2–0.3% of the total livestock holdings on the ranch. Jaguars caused most (69%) cattle predation events, and survival in allotments was lower for calves than for other age classes. Forest proximity was the only variable we found to explain patterns of livestock mortality, with predation risk increasing as distance to forest cover declined. Due to low predation risk, cattle movement patterns and grouping behavior did not vary relative to level of spatial overlap with radiocollared jaguars. The overall effect of predation on cattle was low and livestock likely constituted an alternative prey for large cats in our study area. However, selection of calves over other age cohorts and higher predation risk among cattle in proximity to forest cover is suggestive of selection of substandard individuals. Cattle ranchers in the Pantanal region may reduce cattle mortality rates by concentrating on losses due to nonpredation causes that could be more easily controlled.
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Vol. 71 • No. 7