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Ecology of large felids and their prey in small reserves of the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico

Ecology of large felids and their prey in small reserves of the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico
Ecology of large felids and their prey in small reserves of the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico

Jaguars and pumas are top-predator species in the Neotropics that are threatened by habitat destruction, illegal poaching of their body parts and their favored prey, and by the human-wildlife conflicts that arise when predators attack livestock. Much of the remaining felid habitat in the Americas is in protected nature reserves that are too small and isolated to support local populations. Surrounding forests therefore play a vital role in felid conservation. Successful long-term conservation of these two felids requires evidence-based knowledge of their biological and ecological requirements. We studied population distributions of jaguars and pumas and their prey in and between two small, private reserves of the Northern Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, with areas of 25 and 43 km2. During 2 years of camera trapping (2015 and 2016), we detected 21 jaguars, from which we estimated an average space requirement of 28-45 km2/individual. Dietary niche overlap exceeded random expectation. The most frequently occurring prey items in jaguar and puma diets were collared peccary and deer. Jaguar also favored nine-banded armadillos and white-nosed coati, while puma favored canids. Both felids avoided ocellated turkey. Overall, diet of jaguars was less species-rich, but similar in niche breadth, to that of pumas. A fluid use of space by both species, in 2015 tending toward mutual attraction and in 2016 toward partial exclusion of pumas by jaguars, combined with the high dietary overlap, is consistent with a dominance hierarchy facilitating coexistence. Jaguars and pumas favor the same prey as the people in local communities who hunt, which likely will intensify human-wildlife impacts when prey become scarce. We conclude that even small reserves play an important role in increasing the continuity of habitat for prey and large felids, whose generalist habits suppress interspecific competition for increasingly limiting prey that are largely shared between them and humans.

camera trapping, dietary analysis, endangered mammals, indirect wildlife monitoring, large predators, recapture models, spatially explicit capture
0022-2372
115-127
Piña-Covarrubias, Evelyn
a3202474-20c4-4a8c-b34d-713d8e060f0f
Chávez, Cuauhtémoc
ff08dba8-c2eb-4543-ae64-45fa0a6938d7
Chapman, Mark A.
8bac4a92-bfa7-4c3c-af29-9af852ef6383
Morales, Montserrat
6bd2b19f-0763-44ee-9db9-613fbf5689b8
Elizalde-Arellano, Cynthia
5f61b1b0-fa6d-4b7a-81aa-3587ef1b6416
Doncaster, C. Patrick
0eff2f42-fa0a-4e35-b6ac-475ad3482047
Piña-Covarrubias, Evelyn
a3202474-20c4-4a8c-b34d-713d8e060f0f
Chávez, Cuauhtémoc
ff08dba8-c2eb-4543-ae64-45fa0a6938d7
Chapman, Mark A.
8bac4a92-bfa7-4c3c-af29-9af852ef6383
Morales, Montserrat
6bd2b19f-0763-44ee-9db9-613fbf5689b8
Elizalde-Arellano, Cynthia
5f61b1b0-fa6d-4b7a-81aa-3587ef1b6416
Doncaster, C. Patrick
0eff2f42-fa0a-4e35-b6ac-475ad3482047

Piña-Covarrubias, Evelyn, Chávez, Cuauhtémoc, Chapman, Mark A., Morales, Montserrat, Elizalde-Arellano, Cynthia and Doncaster, C. Patrick (2022) Ecology of large felids and their prey in small reserves of the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Journal of Mammalogy, 104 (1), 115-127. (doi:10.1093/jmammal/gyac090).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Jaguars and pumas are top-predator species in the Neotropics that are threatened by habitat destruction, illegal poaching of their body parts and their favored prey, and by the human-wildlife conflicts that arise when predators attack livestock. Much of the remaining felid habitat in the Americas is in protected nature reserves that are too small and isolated to support local populations. Surrounding forests therefore play a vital role in felid conservation. Successful long-term conservation of these two felids requires evidence-based knowledge of their biological and ecological requirements. We studied population distributions of jaguars and pumas and their prey in and between two small, private reserves of the Northern Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, with areas of 25 and 43 km2. During 2 years of camera trapping (2015 and 2016), we detected 21 jaguars, from which we estimated an average space requirement of 28-45 km2/individual. Dietary niche overlap exceeded random expectation. The most frequently occurring prey items in jaguar and puma diets were collared peccary and deer. Jaguar also favored nine-banded armadillos and white-nosed coati, while puma favored canids. Both felids avoided ocellated turkey. Overall, diet of jaguars was less species-rich, but similar in niche breadth, to that of pumas. A fluid use of space by both species, in 2015 tending toward mutual attraction and in 2016 toward partial exclusion of pumas by jaguars, combined with the high dietary overlap, is consistent with a dominance hierarchy facilitating coexistence. Jaguars and pumas favor the same prey as the people in local communities who hunt, which likely will intensify human-wildlife impacts when prey become scarce. We conclude that even small reserves play an important role in increasing the continuity of habitat for prey and large felids, whose generalist habits suppress interspecific competition for increasingly limiting prey that are largely shared between them and humans.

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Published date: 9 November 2022
Keywords: camera trapping, dietary analysis, endangered mammals, indirect wildlife monitoring, large predators, recapture models, spatially explicit capture

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Local EPrints ID: 477557
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/477557
ISSN: 0022-2372
PURE UUID: 1d7c8c56-6b59-4988-b283-d3271ee15c99
ORCID for Evelyn Piña-Covarrubias: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-3564-7467
ORCID for Mark A. Chapman: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-7151-723X
ORCID for C. Patrick Doncaster: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-9406-0693

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Date deposited: 08 Jun 2023 16:42
Last modified: 20 May 2024 18:06

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Contributors

Author: Evelyn Piña-Covarrubias ORCID iD
Author: Cuauhtémoc Chávez
Author: Mark A. Chapman ORCID iD
Author: Montserrat Morales
Author: Cynthia Elizalde-Arellano

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