Population densities and habitat use of the golden jackal (Canis aureus) in farmlands across the Balkan Peninsula
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- Šálek, M., Červinka, J., Banea, O.C. et al. Eur J Wildl Res (2014) 60: 193. doi:10.1007/s10344-013-0765-0
The main objective of this study was to analyze the habitat use and population densities of the golden jackal in four countries across lowland regions of the Balkan Peninsula, known as the core area of the species' distribution in Europe. Using indirect (acoustic) method for detecting territorial golden jackals, we surveyed jackal presence and densities on 331 monitoring sites in four countries, covering area an of 4,296 km2 in total during April and May 2007–2012. We used GIS to assess landscape and environmental characteristics in a 2-km circular buffer (12.6 km2) around calling stations. Average population density of golden jackals in the study areas ranged between 0.6 and 1.1 territorial groups/10 km2 (mean ± SE, 0.6 ± 0.06 groups/10 km2), with several high-density areas with up to 4.8 territorial groups/10 km2. Analysis of habitat use showed that for both jackal occurrence and number of jackal groups, the only significant parameter was the interaction between country and intensity of agriculture, indicating that jackals adapt their habitat selection patterns in relation to the habitat availability. We observed that selection of the more suitable habitats (shrub–herbaceous vegetation/heterogeneous agricultural vegetation) increased with lower proportion of these habitat types in the study area. Our study confirms high habitat plasticity of the golden jackal and offers explanation for its recent range expansion, which might be connected with the land use changes during the last decades in the Balkan Peninsula.