A native top predator maintained by exotic preys inside a protected area: the puma and the introduced ungulates
ZANON-MARTINEZ, J.I., SANTILLÁN, M.A., SARASOLA, J.H., TRAVAINI, A. 2016. A native top predator maintained by exotic preys inside a protected area: the puma and the introduced ungulates. Journal of Arid Environments 134:17-20.
Abstract: Top predators play an important role to preserving healthy and functional ecosystems. Predatory interactions among generalist predators and native prey may be altered due to occurrence and availability of introduced prey species. These interactions seldom receive attention in biodiversity conservation, particularly when establishing protected area management guidelines. In this study we described puma (Puma concolor) diet in a protected area from central Argentina, where red deer (Cervus elaphus) and wild boar (Sus scrofa) were regionally introduced for game a hundred years ago. We aimed to evaluate if the puma effectively bases its diet on native prey species maintaining natural ecological interactions despite the occurrence and availability of these introduced prey species. We analyzed 83 puma scats in a landscape containing both native and introduced species susceptible to predation. Results indicate that puma diet was composed mostly by introduced species, which represented 80.8% of the total biomass consumed (Cervus elaphus 40.6%, Sus scrofa 39.4%, and Ovis aries 0.8%). Pumas mainly preyed on introduced ungulates in the protected area, where management guidelines do not account for puma-native prey interactions. We suggest implementation of management actions to reduce densities of these introduced ungulates to restore natural ecological interactions between the puma and native prey.
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