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Augmentation of natural prey reduces cattle predation by puma (Puma concolor) and jaguar (Panthera onca) on a ranch in Sonora, Mexico

October 5, 2021

Retaliatory killing of large carnivores due to livestock predation is one of the major threats for the conservation of many declining populations of predators. According to empirical observations, there is a higher incidence of livestock predation when native prey abundance is low. In this study, we applied a treatment consisting of augmentation of prey abundance by translocation of peccaries (Pecari tajacu) and placement of four feed stations for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on a cattle ranch in Sonora, Mexico, with verified calf predation by puma (Puma concolor) and jaguar (Panthera onca). We quantified and compared consumed prey over two periods—phase I (8 months before the augmentation of prey) and phase II (8 months after the augmentation of prey)—through investigation of kill sites from Global Positioning System–collared jaguar and puma, prey identification from analyzed scat using molecular DNA techniques, and opportunistic discoveries of recently killed animal remains by either predator. We calculated the relative abundance of species (17 mammals [one species with two distinct age classes] and 1 bird species) through camera traps and for the most relevant prey species for this study (deer, calf, and peccary), we also estimated prey use by the predator, based on their availability during each period (prey preference). In the prey composition analyses of scat, we observed a significant reduction in the consumption of bovids and a significant increase in the consumption of peccaries during phase II. In the analyses of prey use, during phase I, predators consumed peccaries and calves at a higher proportion in relation to their availability. During phase II, consumption of calves declined from being preferred, to being consumed at the same proportion as their availability. Application of these results can contribute to the decrease of livestock predation and therefore conservation of pumas and jaguars.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Augmentation of natural prey reduces cattle predation by puma (Puma concolor) and jaguar (Panthera onca) on a ranch in Sonora, Mexico
DOI 10.1894/0038-4909-65.2.123
Authors Ivonne Cassaigne, Ron W. Thompson, Rodrigo A. Medellin, Melanie Culver, Alexander Ochoa, Karla Vargas, Jack L. Childs, Manuel Galaz, Jim Sanderson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Southwestern Naturalist
Series Number
Index ID 70229716
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle