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Inter-pack, seasonal and annual variation in prey consumed by wolves in Pollino National Park, southern Italy

  • Paolo CiucciEmail author
  • Luca Artoni
  • Francesca Crispino
  • Elisabetta Tosoni
  • Luigi Boitani
Original Article

Abstract

Although understanding of food habits of wolves in human-modified landscapes is critical to inform conservation and conflict management, no such studies have ever been conducted in the southern Apennines, Italy, where wolves long coexisted with humans. By means of scat analysis (n = 1743) and log-linear modelling, we investigated diet composition in five wolf packs in the relatively simple prey system of the Pollino National Park (PNP), southern Italy (1999−2003). Overall, although wild boar was the most frequently consumed prey (mean frequency ± SD, 63.1 ± 23%), both wild boar and cattle predominated the diet in terms of biomass (45.3 ± 24 and 48.1 ± 21%, respectively). We revealed, however, a zonal (i.e. area, pack) followed by annual and seasonal effects on the wolf diet. Cattle consumption by wolf packs in the northern portion of PNP (Pollino subrange) was highest, especially during summer when cattle predominated the diet in terms of biomass (68.3 ± 20%). Instead, wild boar consumption was highest in the Orsomarso packs (biomass, 62.1 ± 13%), with increasing trends throughout the study period but no relevant seasonal variation. Wild boar piglets and cattle calves were the most frequently consumed age classes, revealing their availability year-round and higher profitability compared to other prey. Cattle consumption by wolves reflected prevailing husbandry techniques (free-ranging herds with unattended births) and determined a permanent state of conflict, often spurring retaliatory killing of wolves. Compatible cattle husbandry practices, along with the restoration of multi-prey communities, are needed to reduce wolf-livestock conflicts and possibly enhance the ecological role of wolves in human-altered ecosystems.

Keywords

Cattle depredation Food habits Log-linear models Scat analysis Wild boar Wolf 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Funding and logistical support were provided by the Pollino National Park Authority (contacts no. G.E. 312/98 and 183/99). We are particularly indebted to former PNP president M. Tripepi for his patronage and encouragement of our research activities. We thank all researchers and technicians who participated to field and lab work, and in particular C. Braschi, N. Boldrini, M. Caporioni, S. D’Alessio, I. Gatto, G. Gervasio. We also acknowledge the many students and volunteers who assisted us in various phases of the project, among which A. Bertrand, C. Bueno De Campos, A. Dutsov, S. Liccioli, I. Orlando, P. Roberts, C. Smith, C. Solsbury, and A. Testa deserve special recognition. S. Lovari, A. Massolo, and A. Sangiugliano provided data and technical reports concerning a concurrent research and conservation project on wild ungulates in the PNP. We thank G. Jona Lasinio for statistical assistance. We gratefully acknowledge useful comments and suggestions on a previous version of our manuscript by the Associate Editor and two anonymous referees.

Supplementary material

10344_2018_1166_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (118 kb)
Online Resource 1 Details of log-linear models application to dietary wolf data as obtained from scat analysis (Pollino National Park, southern Italy, 1999−2003). (PDF 117 kb)
10344_2018_1166_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (78 kb)
Online Resource 2 Number of wolf scats analysed by year, season, and pack to assess food-habits of wolves in Pollino National Park, southern Italy (1999–2003). (PDF 77 kb)
10344_2018_1166_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (75 kb)
Online Resource 3 Significant effects on wolf diet composition revealed by hierarchical log-linear modelling using frequency data (i.e., number of equivalents) of main prey type occurrences in wolf scats (Pollino National Park, southern Italy, 1999–2003). (PDF 75 kb)
10344_2018_1166_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (140 kb)
Online Resource 4 Consumption (% occurrence and % biomass ingested) of main prey species by 5 wolf packs in the Pollino National Park, southern Italy (1999–2003), based on scat analysis. (PDF 139 kb)
10344_2018_1166_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (89 kb)
Online Resource 5 Seasonal comparison of main prey consumption (% occurrence and % biomass ingested) by wolves in the (A) Pollino (2000–2002), and (B) Orsomarso (1999–2003) ranges in the Pollino National Park (southern Italy), based on scat analysis. (PDF 88 kb)
10344_2018_1166_MOESM6_ESM.pdf (290 kb)
Online Resource 6 Annual consumption of main prey species by wolves in Pollino National Park, southern Italy, based on scat analysis (% occurrence of equivalents). (A) Pollino range, 2000–2002; (B) Orsomarso range, 1999–2003. (PDF 290 kb)
10344_2018_1166_MOESM7_ESM.pdf (2.1 mb)
Online Resource 7 Fig. S1: Two-week old calf predated by wolves of the Grattaculo pack (Pollino National Park, southern Italy); Fig. S2: Reconstruction of a poisoning event within the core of the Tavolara pack (Orsomarso subrange) in October 2000 (Pollino National Park, southern Italy). (PDF 2177 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and BiotechnologiesUniversity of Rome La SapienzaRomeItaly
  2. 2.Società Cooperativa GreenwoodDipignanoItaly

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