The striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena), despite being a threatened species, frequently occurs in human-dominated landscapes of India's Rajasthan State. We estimated hyena densities using photographic capture–recapture sampling to identify key ecological factors influencing hyena abundances in such areas. Our 2 study sites (307 km2 in Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and 218 km2 in Esrana Forest Range) had different topographies and levels of human disturbances. We proposed explicit hypotheses regarding effects of livestock densities and topographic features on hyena abundances. We tested these hypotheses by examining the correspondence of estimated hyena densities to food availability in the form of livestock carcasses and potential refugia offered by hilly terrain. Sampling efforts of 548 and 538 camera-trap nights were invested in Kumbhalgarh and Esrana, respectively. Density estimates (hyenas/100 km2) based on capture–recapture sampling were higher (6.5 ± 2.6 SE) for Kumbhalgarh than Esrana (3.67 ± 0.3 SE). Our results supported the prediction that denning refugia in hilly terrain sustain higher hyena densities, but the prediction that higher livestock densities maintain higher hyena densities was not supported. Because the striped hyena is a threatened species for which few data exist, our findings have major potential utility for range-wide conservation of the species.
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Vol. 91 • No. 5