Spatial characteristics of residential development shift large carnivore prey habits
Justine A. Smith,Yiwei Wan and Christopher C. Wilmers
The Journal of Wildlife Management, ,
Understanding how anthropogenic development affects food webs is essential to implementing sustainable growth measures, but we have very little knowledge about how the spatial configuration of residential development affects the foraging behavior and prey habits of top predators. The researchers examined the influence of the spatial characteristics of residential development on prey composition in the puma (Puma concolor). They located the prey remains of kills from 32 pumas fitted with global positioning system (GPS) satellite collars to determine the housing characteristics most influencing prey size and species composition. They examined how differences in housing density, proximity, and clustering influenced puma prey size and diversity. They found that at both local (150 m) and regional (1 km) spatial scales surrounding puma kill sites, housing density (but not the clustering of housing) was the greatest contributor to puma consumption of small prey,which primarily comprised human commensals or pets. The species-specific relationships between housing density and prey occupancy and detection rates assessed using camera traps were not always similar to those between housing density and proportions of diet, suggesting that pumas may exercise some diet selectivity. The influence of development on puma diet may affect puma disease risk, energetics, and demographics because of altered species interactions and prey-specific profiles of energetic gain and cost. The researchers say their results can help guide future land-use planners seeking to minimize the impacts of development on wild species interactions and community dynamics.