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Humans, but not their dogs, displace pumas from their kills: An experimental approach.


Domestic dogs are the most abundant large carnivore on the planet, and their ubiquity has led to concern regarding the impacts of dogs as predators of and competitors with native wildlife. If native large carnivores perceive dogs as threatening, impacts could extend to the community level by altering interactions between large carnivores and their prey. Dog impacts may be further exacerbated if these human-associated predators are also perceived as indicators of risk from humans. However, observational approaches used to date have led to ambiguity regarding the effects of dog presence on wildlife. We experimentally quantified dog impacts on the behavior of a native large carnivore, presenting playbacks of dog vocalizations to pumas in central California. We show that the perceived presence of dogs has minimal impacts on puma behavior at their kill sites, and is no more likely to affect total feeding time at kills than non-threatening controls. We previously demonstrated that pumas exhibit strong responses to human cues, and here show that perceived risk from human presence far exceeds that from dogs. Our results suggest that protected areas management policies that restrict dogs but permit human access may in some cases be of limited value for large carnivores.

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