Predation risk from lions (Panthera leo) has been linked to habitat characteristics and availability and traits of prey. We separated the effects of vegetation density and the presence of drinking water by analyzing locations of lion kills in relation to rivers with dense vegetation, which offer good lion stalking opportunities, and artificial water points with low vegetation density. The spatial distribution of lion kills was studied at the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, South Africa. The distance between 215 lion kills and the nearest water source was analyzed using generalized linear models. Lions selected medium-sized prey species. Lion kills were closer to rivers and to artificial water points than expected by random distribution of the kills. Water that attracted prey, and not the vegetation density in riverine areas, increased predation risk, with kills of buffalo (Syncerus caffer), kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), and wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) as water-dependent prey species. Traits of prey species, including feeding type (food habits), digestion type (ruminant or nonruminant), or body size, did not explain locations of lion kills, and no seasonal patterns in lion kills were apparent. We argue that the cascading impact of lions on local mammal assemblages is spatially heterogeneous.
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Vol. 91 • No. 5