Reintroductions of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, through the managed metapopulation approach, promoted a population expansion from one pack in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in 1997 to nine packs in three reserves by 2009. Consequently, the likelihood of dispersing wild dogs leaving their natal ranges from within fenced reserves also increased. Land outside these reserves could potentially be utilized to expand wild dog distribution and provide connectivity between the geographically isolated subpopulations. We used Maximum Entropy Modelling (Maxent) to characterize habitat niche selection of transient wild dogs outside of resident reserves, and to identify potential dispersal linkages between subpopulations. A habitat suitability model indicated four variables (elevation, land cover, road density and human density) best predicted probability of presence for transient wild dogs. Elevation (AUC > 0.80) and land cover (AUC > 0.75) were the two most influential variables when considered independently. Transient wild dogs preferred lower lying locations (130–330 m a.s.l.) covered by woodland or bushland; habitat indicative of the preferred prey of wild dogs. Considerable habitat exists for subpopulation linkages; however, the majority of wild dog movements between subpopulations required mitigation of potential or real game or livestock losses. Development of formal linkages and wild dog management between subpopulations will require a sustained approach to improving tolerance towards wild dogs, clarity on financial obligations and management responses to pack and prey population dynamics.
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