Main content area

Antipredator response diminishes during periods of resource deficit for a large herbivore

Oates, B. A., Merkle, J. A., Kauffman, M. J., Dewey, S. R., Jimenez, M. D., Vartanian, J. M., Becker, S. A., Goheen, J. R.
Ecology 2019 v.100 no.4 pp. e02618
Alces alces, Canis lupus, antipredatory behavior, ecosystems, food webs, foraging, global positioning systems, habitat preferences, habitats, herbivores, predation, predators, prediction, riparian areas, risk, starvation, winter, wolves, North America
The starvation–predation hypothesis predicts that, during resource shortages, prey forego antipredator behavior and forage as much as possible to avoid starvation, even when risk of predation is high. We tested this hypothesis using GPS locations collected simultaneously from moose (Alces alces) and wolves (Canis lupus) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of North America. We assessed shifts in the speed, displacement, and habitat selection of moose 24 h following encounter with wolves (0–1,500 m distance). We examined whether the strength of antipredator behaviors would weaken as winter progressed and the nutritional condition of moose declined. Moose responded to wolf encounters by increasing their rate of movement in early winter, but only within 500 m distance. Importantly, these responses attenuated as winter progressed. Moose did not avoid their preferred foraging habitat (riparian areas) following encounters with wolves at any distance, and instead they more strongly selected riparian areas, especially in early winter. Our findings support theoretical predictions that resource deficits should dampen prey antipredator behavior, and suggest that nutritional condition of prey may buffer against run‐away risk effects in food webs involving large mammalian predators and prey.