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Population densities and habitat use of the golden jackal (Canis aureus) in farmlands across the Balkan Peninsula

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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.

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We are grateful to Aleš Lipičnik, Nadja Osojnik, and Aleš Sedlar for their help in the field. We thank Giorgos Giannatos, Nikolai Spassov, Luca Lapini, Stoyan Stoyanov, and Dumitru Murariu for their scientific and technical advice. We would also like to thank Marina Kipson for editing the English manuscript. This work was supported by the research aim of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (RVO 68081766), by the grant of Grant Agency of University of South Bohemia 168/2013/P and Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Serbia (Contract TR 31009).

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Correspondence to Martin Šálek.

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Communicated by C. Gortázar


Appendix 1

Variables used to analyze habitat preferences of golden jackal in the study areas according to Corine Land Cover classes.

Table 5 Variables used to analyze habitat preferences of golden jackal in the study areas according with Corine Land Cover classes

Appendix 2

Fig. 1
figure 1

Number of golden jackal groups on individual monitoring sites in studied countries

Appendix 3

Fig. 2
figure 2

Agricultural intensity (score from the first ordination axis of PCA) at occupied/unoccupied counting points for (a) Romania, (b) Bulgaria, (c) Croatia, and (d) Serbia. Whiskers—non-outlier range, boxes—25–75 % of data, squares—median. For each country, we performed Mann–Whitney U test, and statistical significances are noted within graphs

Appendix 4

Fig. 3
figure 3

Relationships between agricultural intensity (score from the first ordination axis of PCA) and number of jackal groups for (a) Romania, (b) Bulgaria, (c) Croatia, and (d) Serbia. Significant relationship was found only for Serbia (simple regressions, statistical significances are noted within graphs)

Appendix 5

Medians for proportions of each occupied/unoccupied habitat type related to the agricultural intensity with statistical significance (Mann–Whitney U tests), and analyses of the effect of habitat type on number of jackal groups. P values below P = 0.05 are in italics. Arable arable land, Hetero heterogeneous agricultural vegetation, Shrubs shrub–herbaceous vegetation.

Table 6 Medians for proportions of each occupied/unoccupied habitat type related to the agricultural intensity with statistical significance (Mann–Whitney U tests), and analyses of the effect of habitat type on number of jackal groups

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Šálek, M., Červinka, J., Banea, O.C. et al. Population densities and habitat use of the golden jackal (Canis aureus) in farmlands across the Balkan Peninsula. Eur J Wildl Res 60, 193–200 (2014).

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