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Context.Coyotes (Canis latrans) have adapted successfully to human landscape alteration in the past 150 years and in recent decades have successfully moved into urban areas. While this causes concern about human–wildlife conflicts, research also suggests that coyotes tend to avoid humans and human activity in urban areas. For improving management, a better understanding of space use by coyotes is needed.
Aims.To study how coyote social behaviour influences fine-scale space use in urban areas we present results from an extensive, multi-year GPS telemetry study (2005–13). The study area in coastal Rhode Island is a mosaic of rural, suburban and urban land use and coyotes have only recently arrived.
Methods.We differentiated between two social classes: residents (individuals that have established a territory; n = 24) and transients (individuals that have no territory; n = 7). Space use was analysed using mixed effect models and detailed land-cover data.
Key results.Coyotes tended to select for agricultural and densely vegetated land cover and against land used for housing and commerce. Pasture and cropland were preferred by residents and avoided by transients, especially at night, indicating the role of agricultural land as prime foraging habitat. Both groups selected densely vegetated land cover for daytime shelter sites. Transients selected for densely vegetated land cover both day and night, indicating use for both shelter and foraging. Resident coyotes avoided high- and medium-density housing more than transients.
Conclusions.We interpret land-cover selection by resident coyotes as indicative of coyote habitat preference, while transients more often occupied marginal habitats that probably do not reflect their preferences. Differences in land cover selection between residents and transients suggest that transients have a corollary strategy to avoid residents.
Implications.With cover and food appearing to be important drivers of space use, coexistence strategies can build on controlling food resources as well as on the tendency of coyotes to avoid humans. Nevertheless, transients, having the need to avoid territorial resident coyotes as well, show a reduced aversion to land cover with high human activity, creating a higher potential for human–wildlife conflicts.
Context.Feral pigs (Sus scrofa) are a destructive invasive species that cause damage to ecologically sensitive areas. Management of biodiversity and of feral pigs assumes the diet of pigs of different ages and sexes are similar.
Aims.We aimed to investigate effects of feral pig age and sex on broad feral pig diet to identify potential at-risk native wildlife species so as to improve biodiversity and feral pig management.
Methods.Diet was determined by macroscopic analysis of the stomach content of 58 aerially shot feral pigs of mixed ages and sexes. The study occurred in the Macquarie Marshes, New South Wales, a Ramsar wetland of international significance.
Results.Feral pigs were largely herbivorous, with vegetable matter being found in all stomachs and contributing to a majority of the food material that was present in each stomach, by volume. Adult feral pigs had significantly more grasses and crop material in their stomachs than juveniles, while juveniles had significantly more forbs in their stomachs than adult feral pigs. Vertebrate prey items included frogs, lizard and snake, but no threatened wildlife species.
Conclusions.Juvenile and adult feral pigs differed in their diet, especially with regards to plant material, which has not been reported previously. There was, however, no difference in the consumption of vertebrate wildlife species between juvenile and adult, or male and female feral pigs. Slow-moving, nocturnal amphibians and reptiles were the most common vertebrate item recorded.
Implications.Biodiversity and feral pig management should recognise plant diet differences between demographic segments of the feral pig population. Further research is recommended to determine if diet differences also occur for threatened wildlife species, which will require more intensive nocturnal sampling.
Context.Global mammal populations continue to be threatened by environmental change, and recent decadal monitoring in northern Australia suggests a collapse in mammal abundance in key locations. Cape York Peninsula has globally significant natural values but there is very little published about the status and distribution of mammals in this region.
Aims.Following an extensive field survey we investigated two key questions: (i) what is the composition, spatial variation and change from previous regional surveys in the mid to late 1900s in the native terrestrial and arboreal mammal fauna recorded; and (ii) which landscape and site factors best predict mammal richness and abundance.
Methods.We sampled 202 one-hectare sites across seven locations from 2009 to 2012 in woodlands, closed forestand dune scrub and tussock grasslands. We collected landscape and site-based environmental data for each location, representing fire, weather and vegetation factors. We used generalised linear mixed models to examine the relationship between mammals and these factors.
Key results.Mammals were generally scarce across the sites and were more abundant and species rich in wet coastal grasslands or closed forests then tropical savanna woodlands. Fire frequency data and the surrounding vegetation complexity were consistent landscape-scale predictors of mammals; ground cover and woody complexity were significant at the site scale.
Conclusions.Notwithstanding interpretational constraints related to the limited evidence base of historic sampling, the mammal fauna recorded in this study for Cape York Peninsula was similar in composition to the mammal fauna described from 1948–1980 and surveys in 1985, with some species seemingly declining (e.g. Melomys burtoni, Dasyurus hallucatus, Sminthopsis virginiae) and others stable (e.g. Rattus sordidus) or more common (e.g. Rattus tunneyi); however, across all sites abundance was low, and many sites had few or no mammals.
Implications.In the absence of consistent long-term systematic monitoring it is difficult to determine if this survey and historical surveys represent pre-European patterns for mammals. The absence or low abundance of mammals in most sites suggest that cotemporary patterns may not represent an intact mammal fauna. Due to the equivocal nature of these findings a critical next step is to establish robust monitoring and experimental work to reveal the response of mammals to management interventions.
Context.Migratory species are known to pose a challenge for conservation because it is essential to understand their complex life history in order to implement efficient conservation actions.
Aims.In New Caledonia, large seagrass habitats in the Grand Lagon Sud (GLS) are home to resident green turtles (Chelonia mydas) of unknown origins. To assess the stock composition in the GLS, 164 foraging turtles were sampled for genetic analysis of ∼770 base pairs of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region.
Methods.Foraging turtles ranging in size from 48.0 to 108.4 cm curved carapace length were captured at five different sites within the GLS between September 2012 and December 2013. To provide baseline data for mixed stock analysis, published data from rookeries were used in addition to 105 samples collected at rookeries in the d’Entrecasteaux Islands and Chesterfield Islands in New Caledonia and at Malekula Island in Vanuatu. Exact tests of population differentiation and pairwise FST estimates were used to test for differences in mtDNA haplotype frequencies.
Key results.These analyses indicated that rookeries in the d’Entrecasteaux Islands and Vanuatu form unique management units and that the Chesterfield Islands rookeries are linked to the Coral Sea management unit. Mixed stock analysis indicated the highest proportion (mean = 0.63) of foraging turtles originate from the d’Entrecasteaux stock.
Conclusions.The larger contribution is estimated to be from a large rookery from New Caledonia, but smaller contributions are suggested from other rookeries in the South Pacific.
Implications.Marine conservation policies in New Caledonia need to consider the links between the foraging and nesting populations of C. mydas in New Caledonia and other rookeries and foraging grounds in the Coral Sea.
Context.In peri-urban environments, high availability of anthropogenic resources may result in relatively high abundances of some species, with potentially negative implications for other native biota. Effective management of such impacts requires understanding of the spatial ecology of problem species. However, home range and habitat use have not been described for the little raven (Corvus mellori), a superabundant native predator that occurs in urban and natural habitats, including those where threatened shorebirds breed.
Aims.The aim of this study was to provide basic information on little raven home range, habitat use and movements in a coastal peri-urban landscape.
Methods.Between October 2011 and January 2012 we radio-tracked 20 little ravens captured in a coastal wetland (near Melbourne, Australia).
Key results.Little ravens were highly mobile, moving up to 9.9 km in an hour (median = 2 km), and had large ranges: Minimum Convex Polygons were 1664–9989 ha (median = 3362 ha). Although most birds used both anthropogenic and natural habitats, some birds strongly selected for coastal wetland habitat. Birds used multiple roosts during the study period, most of which occurred in grassland (58.7%) or urban (22.3%) areas. Movement of up to 8.3 km (median = 2.2 km) between roosts during the night was also detected.
Conclusions.Ravens were highly mobile and used large home ranges and a variety of habitats, with habitat preferences varying between birds.
Implications.Considering the large home ranges and inter-individual variation in habitat preferences of little raven populations, localised management to reduce their impacts on breeding shorebirds is unlikely to be successful.
Context.Egg depredation is a major cause of reproductive failure among birds and can drive population declines. In this study we investigate predatory behaviour of a corvid (little raven; Corvus mellori) that has only recently emerged, leading to widespread and intense depredation of eggs of a burrow-nesting seabird (little penguin; Eudyptula minor).
Aims.The main objective of this study was to measure the rate of penguin egg depredation by ravens to determine potential threat severity. We also examined whether penguin burrow characteristics were associated with the risk of egg depredation. Ravens generally employ two modes of predatory behaviour when attacking penguin nests; thus we examined whether burrow characteristics were associated with these modes of attack.
Methods.Remote-sensing cameras were deployed on penguin burrows to determine egg predation rates. Burrow measurements, including burrow entrance and tunnel characteristics, were measured at the time of camera deployment.
Key results.Overall, clutches in 61% of monitored burrows (n = 203) were depredated by ravens, the only predator detected by camera traps. Analysis of burrow characteristics revealed two distinct types of burrows, only one of which was associated with egg depredation by ravens. Clutches depredated by ravens had burrows with wider and higher entrances, thinner soil or vegetation layer above the egg chamber, shorter and curved tunnels and greater areas of bare ground and whitewash near entrances. In addition, 86% were covered by bower spinach (Tetragonia implexicoma), through which ravens could excavate. Ravens used two modes to access the eggs: they attacked through the entrance (25% of burrow attacks, n = 124); or dug a hole through the burrow roof (75% of attacks, n = 124). Burrows that were subject to attack through the entrance had significantly shorter tunnels than burrows accessed through the roof.
Conclusions.The high rates of clutch loss recorded here highlight the need for population viability analysis of penguins to assess the effect of egg predation on population growth rates.
Implications.The subterranean foraging niche of a corvid described here may have implications for burrow-nesting species worldwide because many corvid populations are increasing, and they exhibit great capacity to adopt new foraging strategies to exploit novel prey.
Context.Loss of eggs to predators is a major cause of reproductive failure among birds. It is especially pronounced among ground-nesting birds because their eggs are accessible to a wide range of predators. Few studies document the main causes of clutch fate of ground-nesting birds.
Aims.The main objective of the present study was to identify the major egg predator of red-capped plovers (Charadrius ruficapillus). We also investigated the effectiveness of the following two primary strategies available to the plovers to avoid egg predation: (1) the placement of clutches under vegetative cover and (2) avoiding predators by nesting outside the peak season of predator occurrence.
Methods.Remote-sensing cameras were deployed on plover nests to identify egg predators and nests were monitored over four breeding seasons to document reproductive success and fate. An experiment using false clutches with model eggs investigated the influence of nest cover on the risk of egg predation throughout the year. Line-transect surveys were conducted to estimate the abundance of egg predators in and around the wetlands.
Key results.The little raven (Corvus mellori) was the major egg predator identified in 78.6% of red-capped plover clutches and in 92.4% of false clutches that were camera-monitored. The hatching success of plover eggs was not influenced by nest cover (P = 0.36), but model egg survival in false clutches improved significantly with the presence of nest cover (P = 0.02). The abundance of little ravens increased during the plover breeding season and was highly negatively correlated with false clutch survival (rpearson = –0.768, P = 0.005).
Conclusions.Little ravens were the major predator of red-capped plover eggs and their abundance increased significantly during the plover breeding season. Any influence of nest cover on hatching success of eggs may have been masked by the extremely high rate of egg loss associated with the increased little raven abundance during the plover breeding season.
Implications.The high rate of egg predation is likely to have negative consequences on the local red-capped plover population, suggesting management is warranted. Little raven populations have expanded and, thus, their impact as egg predators needs to be investigated especially on threatened species.
Context. Apex predators occupy the top level of the trophic cascade and often perform regulatory functions in many ecosystems. Their removal has been shown to increase herbivore and mesopredator populations, and ultimately reduce species diversity. In Australia, it has been proposed that the apex predator, the dingo (Canis dingo), has the potential to act as a biological control agent for two introduced mesopredators, the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the feral cat (Felis catus). Understanding the mechanisms of interaction among the three species may assist in determining the effectiveness of the dingo as a control agent and the potential benefits to lower-order species.
Aims. To test the hypotheses that feral cats and foxes attempt to both temporally avoid dingoes and spatially avoid areas of high dingo use.
Methods. Static and dynamic interaction methodologies based on global positioning system (GPS) telemetry data were applied to test temporal and spatial interactions between the two mesopredators (n = 15) and a dingo pair (n = 2). The experimental behavioural study was conducted in a 37-km2 fenced enclosure located in arid South Australia.
Key results. The dynamic interaction analysis detected neither attraction nor avoidance between dingoes and cats or foxes at short temporal scales. There was no suggestion of delayed interactions, indicating that dingoes were not actively hunting mesopredators on the basis of olfactory signalling. However, static interaction analysis suggested that, although broad home ranges of cats and foxes overlapped with dingoes, core home ranges were mutually exclusive. This was despite similar habitat preferences among species.
Conclusions. We found that avoidance patterns were not apparent when testing interactions at short temporal intervals, but were manifested at larger spatial scales. Results support previous work that suggested that dingoes kill mesopredators opportunistically rather than through active hunting.
Implications. Core home ranges of dingoes may provide refuge areas for small mammals and reptiles, and ultimately benefit threatened prey species by creating mesopredator-free space. However, the potential high temporal variation in core home-range positioning and small size of mutually exclusive areas suggested that further work is required to determine whether these areas provide meaningful sanctuaries for threatened prey.