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Quantifying prey selection of Northern and Southern European wolves (Canis lupus)

Ståhlberg, Sophie, Bassi, Elena, Viviani, Viviana, Apollonio, Marco
Mammalian biology = 2017 v.83 pp. 34-43
Alces alces, Canis lupus, anthropogenic activities, diet, environmental impact, feces, habitats, landscapes, latitude, predation, risk, variance, wild boars, wolves, Italy, Scandinavia, Southern European region
Wolf (Canis lupus) diet is determined by several ecological factors which can differ with latitude and human impact on the environment. Here we aim to compare Northern and Southern Europe with respect to wolf feeding habits. Scats were collected and analysed for nine years in South-central Scandinavia and four years in Tuscany, Italy, where prey density, predator-prey size relation and habitat heterogeneity, were compared in different ecological perspectives. Consumption followed prey density in Scandinavia but not in Tuscany and the main prey species, moose and wild boar respectively, were more seasonally age diversified in Scandinavia than in Tuscany. Most likely, the risk of injury was an important factor in prey age selection, especially in Tuscany. Diet composition in Scandinavia showed a negligible variance while in Tuscany, temporal and spatial variation were clearly recognised. The underlying mechanism is most likely related to the limited ecological diversity of landscape in Scandinavia contrasted with the higher variability of South European landscapes resulting in higher variation in prey abundance and consequently prey choice.