Extensive Predator Space Use Can Limit the Efficacy of a Control Program

  • Mosnier A
  • Boisjoly D
  • Courtois R
 et al. 
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ABSTRACT Reduced to small isolated groups by anthropogenic habitat losses or habitat modifications, populations of many endangered species are sensitive to additive sources of mortality, such as predation. Predator control is often one of the first measures considered when predators threaten survival of a population. Unfortunately, predator ecology is often overlooked because relevant data are difficult to obtain. For example, the endangered Gaspésie caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) has benefited from 2 periods of predator control that targeted black bears (Ursus americanus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) in an attempt to reduce predation on caribou calves. Despite a high trapping effort, the number of predators removed has remained stable over time. To assess impact of predator movements on efficacy of a control program, we studied space use of 24 black bears and 16 coyotes over 3 years in and around the Gaspésie Conservation Park, Quebec, Canada, using Global Positioning System radiocollars. Annual home ranges of black bears averaged 260 km2 and 10 individuals frequented area used by caribou. Annual home ranges of resident coyotes averaged 121 km2, whereas dispersing coyotes covered >2,600 km2. Coyotes were generally located at lower altitudes than caribou. However, because coyotes undertook long-distance excursions, they overlapped areas used by caribou. Simulations based on observed patterns showed that 314 bears and 102 coyotes potentially shared part of their home range with areas used by female caribou during the calving period. Despite low densities of both predator species, extensive movement and use of nonexclusive territories seem to allow predators to rapidly occupy removal areas, demonstrating the need for recurrent predator removals. Our results underscore the necessity of considering complementary and alternative solutions to predator control to assure long-term protection of endangered species.

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  • Arnaud Mosnier

  • Dominic Boisjoly

  • Réhaume Courtois

  • Jean-Pierre Ouellet

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