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Sympatric snow leopards and Tibetan wolves: coexistence of large carnivores with human-driven potential competition

Abstract

The snow leopard Panthera uncia coexists with the wolf Canis lupus throughout most of its distribution range. We analysed the food habits of snow leopards and wolves in their sympatric range in the Karakoram mountains of Pakistan. A total of 131 genotyped scats (N = 74, snow leopard; N = 57, Tibetan wolf) were collected during the cold periods (i.e. winter and spring) of 2011 and 2012 in the Hushey valley. Large mammals, i.e. livestock and ibex, accounted for 84.8 and 83.1% of the diet (relative frequency) of the snow leopard and the wolf, respectively. Domestic prey was the staple of the diet of both snow leopards (66.6%) and wolves (75.1%). Ibex Capra ibex, the only wild ungulate in our study area, contributed 18.2 and 16.9% of relative frequencies in the diets of the snow leopard and the wolf, respectively. In winter, the snow leopard heavily relied on domestic sheep (43.3%) for food, whereas the wolf preyed mainly on domestic goats (43.4%). Differently from other study areas, both snow leopards and wolves showed no apparent prey preference (Jacobs index: snow leopard min. − 0.098, max. 0.102; Tibetan wolf min. − 0.120, max. 0.03). In human depauperate areas, with livestock and only a few wild prey, should competitive interactions arise, two main scenarios could be expected, with either predator as a winner. In both cases, the best solution could primarily impinge on habitat restoration, so that a balance could be found between these predators, who have already coexisted for thousands of years.

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Acknowledgements

We are greatly indebted to Agostino Da Polenza and all the staff of Ev-K2-CNR for financial support and help with logistics. The personnel of CKNP, as well as Musa Alì and especially the Wildlife Watcher Sakhawat Alì, helped in fieldwork. We are also grateful to Erica Ercoli, who analysed a part of the scats for diet assessment, as well as to Francesco Ferretti and Luca Rossi for reading critically a previous draft of this manuscript. David M. Shackleton kindly revised our English and provided suggestions. Two anonymous referees improved our final draft with useful comments.

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Correspondence to Sandro Lovari.

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Bocci, A., Lovari, S., Khan, M.Z. et al. Sympatric snow leopards and Tibetan wolves: coexistence of large carnivores with human-driven potential competition. Eur J Wildl Res 63, 92 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-017-1151-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-017-1151-0

Keywords

  • Panthera uncia
  • Canis lupus filchneri
  • Competition
  • Large-carnivore coexistence
  • Siberian ibex