Where wolves kill moose: The influence of prey life history dynamics on the landscape ecology of predation

Robert A. Montgomery, John A. Vucetich, Gary J. Roloff, Joseph K. Bump, Rolf O. Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

The landscape ecology of predation is well studied and known to be influenced by habitat heterogeneity. Little attention has been given to how the influence of habitat heterogeneity on the landscape ecology of predation might be modulated by life history dynamics of prey in mammalian systems. We demonstrate how life history dynamics of moose (Alces alces) contribute to landscape patterns in predation by wolves (Canis lupus) in Isle Royale National Park, Lake Superior, USA. We use pattern analysis and kernel density estimates of moose kill sites to demonstrate that moose in senescent condition and moose in prime condition tend to be wolf-killed in different regions of Isle Royale in winter. Predation on senescent moose was clustered in one kill zone in the northeast portion of the island, whereas predation on prime moose was clustered in 13 separate kill zones distributed throughout the full extent of the island. Moreover, the probability of kill occurrence for senescent moose, in comparison to prime moose, increased in high elevation habitat with patches of dense coniferous trees. These differences can be attributed, at least in part, to senescent moose being more vulnerable to predation and making different risk-sensitive habitat decisions than prime moose. Landscape patterns emerging from prey life history dynamics and habitat heterogeneity have been observed in the predation ecology of fish and insects, but this is the first mammalian system for which such observations have been made.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere91414
JournalPloS one
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 12 2014
Externally publishedYes

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