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Monday, August 6 • 4:30pm - Friday, August 10 •12:00pm
Student Poster: Spatial Mortality Risk for Elk (Cervus elaphus) in a Multi-Predator Community in the Rocky Mountains, Alberta, Canada

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AUTHORS: Kara M. MacAulay, Eric G. Spilker, Jodi E. Berg, and Evelyn H. Merrill – Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta

ABSTRACT: There is evidence that prey perceive the risk of predation, as they navigate a “landscape of fear” and alter their behaviour in response.1,2 Previous approaches to mapping spatial risk use predator and prey distributions to estimate potential encounters3,4,5, yet this approach does not account for attack success resulting in mortality. Locations of prey kill sites represent mortality in space6, but obtaining kill site data can be cost intensive and require time to accumulate adequate sample sizes. We address an alternative to these approaches for mapping predation risk based on mortality by relating features within a buffer to not only the spatial location but contents of predator scats in Ya Ha Tinda, a multi-predator community adjacent to Banff National Park in west-central Alberta, Canada. Scats collected from four large carnivores (wolves, cougars, coyotes and bears) across a 1200-km2 study area from summer 2013-2016 have been analyzed for presence of elk (Cervus elaphus). We compared summer diets of large carnivores through microhistological and DNA scat analysis methods to determine landscape factors influencing spatial predation and validated the risk predictions with known elk kill sites. Elk comprised a larger part of wolf scats compared to cougar and coyote scats, while vegetation dominated bear diets. Juvenile elk (young of year) occur more frequently than adult elk in all predator scats except cougars. In addition to measuring spatial mortality risk through non-invasive sampling, this study also provides baseline data on predation in Banff National Park before the bison reintroduction as part of a 16-year study investigating the role of predation in the changing migratory behaviour of the YHT elk.

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Monday August 6, 2018 4:30pm - Friday August 10, 2018 12:00pm MDT
Assembly Hall Foyer

Attendees (5)