Behaviour of predators in conservation landscapes

  • Scott, Dawn (PI)
  • Tolhurst, Bryony (CoI)

Project Details


There is a growing body of evidence that several species of ground nesting birds of conservation concern are being limited by predation (Roos et al. 2012). Predation operates during the breeding season to reduce nest and/or chick survival and means that many populations are failing to produce the number of young necessary for stable or increasing populations. Reducing the impacts these mammal predators have on ground nesting birds is critical to achieve sustainable populations.

Solutions to this conservation problem have historically focused on lethal control or exclusion of predators. However, lethal control and predator exclusion are intensive, expensive and their long-term sustainability is questionable. Furthermore, there are a number of possible knock-on effects from management of predators:

>Altering the abundance and distribution of the larger mammal predators through culling or exclusion, can have implications for the abundance and behaviour of other predators in the system.

>Excluding predators from large areas of previously accessible habitat could increase predation pressure in adjacent habitats or on other prey species of conservation concern.

>Reductions in predation risk from the managed predator can also be compensated by increased risk from other predatory species.

In addition, these approaches are difficult to apply at the required landscape-scale. However, recent research has shown that certain aspects of landscape management can result in lower nest predation rates. Hence, further work into the effect of landscape management on predator spatial use and foraging and predation risk/rates may help to find more long-term, non-lethal, sustainable solutions to aid conservation objectives in these landscapes.

The overall aim was to understand how wild mammalian predators use landscapes where conservation action for declining species is occurring but the activities of predators currently limits the success of that conservation action. Our objective is to find long-term, sustainable solutions to aid conservation objectives in these landscapes.

To address this we aimed to:

> Quantify the relationships between landscape and conservation management and the temporal and spatial distribution of mammalian predators (badgers and foxes).
> To use mammal distribution data to test predictions about mammal use of the landscape derived from existing relationships between landscape management and nest predation rates.
> Quantify individual variation in resource use within species, to understand whether all individuals are equally likely to predate species of conservation concern.
> Where possible to track badgers and foxes simultaneously, quantify how these species interact within the landscape.

Key findings

This information allowed us to determine the effects of existing conservation management on these mammal predators. New insights into the lives of these mammals may allow us to adapt existing conservation management or develop landscape-scale management strategies that reduce the impacts of these predators on the species we are trying to conserve.
Effective start/end date1/01/1331/12/18


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