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The Forgotten Prey Of An Iconic Predator: A Review Of Interactions Between Grey Wolves Canis Lupus And Beavers Castor spp.

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  1. Predator–prey relationships can have wide-ranging ecological and landscapelevel effects. Knowledge of these relationships is therefore crucial to understanding how these systems function and how changes in predator–prey communities affect these systems. Grey wolves Canis lupus can be significant predators of beavers Castor spp., and conversely, beavers can be important prey for wolves, but wolf-beaver dynamics in North America, Europe, and Asia are poorly understood.
  2. Our objectives were to synthesise current knowledge regarding wolf-beaver interactions and to identify knowledge gaps that should be targeted for study to increase our understanding of wolf-beaver dynamics.
  3. During the ice-free season, beavers are vulnerable to predation and can be the primary or secondary prey of wolves, but the factors that affect beaver consumption by wolves are complex and are likely dependent on biological and environmental factors.
  4. High beaver abundance can increase wolf pup survival, and beavers may subsidise wolves during periods of reduced ungulate abundance. Thus, many researchers have suggested that beaver densities adversely affect ungulate populations through apparent competition, though this remains largely untested.
  5. The effects of wolf predation on beaver population dynamics are poorly understood, as most assessments are lacking in quantitative rigor and are instead based on indirect methods (e.g. scat analysis), anecdotal evidence, or speculation. To understand the effect of predation on beaver populations fully, better estimates (e.g. from documented predation events) of wolf predation on beavers are necessary.
  6. Given the complexities of wolf-ungulate-beaver systems, fully understanding wolf-beaver dynamics will be challenging and is likely to require long-term, intensive research of wolf, ungulate, and beaver population parameters. Understanding this dynamic has implications, not only for the conservation and management of wolves and beavers, but also for ungulate populations, which are affected by the numerical and functional responses of wolves in these same systems.
Document: Gable.pdf  PDF icon

Author(s): Thomas D. GABLE, Steve K. WINDELS, Mark C. ROMANSKI, Frank ROSELL

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