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Interactions between a Top Order Predator and Exotic Mesopredators in the Australian Rangelands

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International Journal of Ecology
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Abstract

An increase in mesopredators caused by the removal of top-order predators can have significant implications for threatened wildlife. Recent evidence suggests that Australia’s top-order predator, the dingo, may suppress the introduced cat and red fox. We tested this relationship by reintroducing 7 foxes and 6 feral cats into a 37 km2 fenced paddock in arid South Australia inhabited by a male and female dingo. GPS datalogger collars recorded locations of all experimental animals every 2 hours. Interactions between species, mortality rates, and postmortems were used to determine the mechanisms of any suppression. Dingoes killed all 7 foxes within 17 days of their introduction and no pre-death interactions were recorded. All 6 feral cats died between 20 and 103 days after release and dingoes were implicated in the deaths of at least 3 cats. Dingoes typically stayed with fox and cat carcasses for several hours after death and/or returned several times in ensuing days. There was no evidence of intraguild predation, interference competition was the dominant mechanism of suppression. Our results support anecdotal evidence that dingoes may suppress exotic mesopredators, particularly foxes. We outline further research required to determine if this suppression translates into a net benefit for threatened prey species.

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