Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Guard dogs as top predators in altered communities

Bommel, L., & Johnson, C. N. (2016). Livestock guardian dogs as surrogate top predators? How Maremma sheepdogs affect a wildlife community. Ecology and evolution, 6(18), 6702-6711.

Use of livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) to reduce predation on livestock is increasing. However, how these dogs influence the activity of wildlife, including predators, is not well understood. We used pellet counts and remote cameras to investigate the effects of free ranging LGDs on four large herbivores (eastern gray kangaroo, common wombat, swamp wallaby, and sambar deer) and one mesopredator (red fox) in Victoria, Australia. Generalized mixed models and one- and two-species detection models were used to assess the influence of the presence of LGDs on detection of the other species. We found avoidance of LGDs in four species. Swamp wallabies and sambar deer were excluded from areas occupied by LGDs; gray kangaroos showed strong spatial and temporal avoidance of LGD areas; foxes showed moderately strong spatial and temporal avoidance of LGD areas. The effect of LGDs on wombats was unclear. Avoidance of areas with LGDs by large herbivores can benefit livestock production by reducing competition for pasture and disease transmission from wildlife to livestock, and providing managers with better control over grazing pressure. Suppression of mesopredators could benefit the small prey of those species. Synthesis and applications: In pastoral areas, LGDs can function as a surrogate top-order predator, controlling the local distribution and affecting behavior of large herbivores and mesopredators. LGDs may provide similar ecological functions to those that in many areas have been lost with the extirpation of native large carnivores.

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