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Integrating temporal refugia into landscapes of fear: prey exploit predator downtimes to forage in risky places

Smith, Justine A., Donadio, Emiliano, Pauli, Jonathan N., Sheriff, Michael J., Middleton, Arthur D.
Oecologia 2019 v.189 no.4 pp. 883-890
Puma, antipredatory behavior, fearfulness, foraging, habitat preferences, landscapes, predation, predators, refuge habitats, risk, risk reduction, vicunas
The landscape of fear is an important driver of prey space use. However, prey can navigate the landscape of fear by exploiting temporal refuges from predation risk. We hypothesized that diel patterns of predator and prey movement and space use would be inversely correlated due to temporal constraints on predator habitat domain. Specifically, we evaluated habitat selection and activity of the vicuña and its only predator, the puma, during three diel periods: day, dawn/dusk, and night. Pumas selected the same habitats regardless of diel period—vegetated and rugged areas that feature stalking cover for pumas—but increased their activity levels during dawn/dusk and night when they benefit from reduced detection by prey. Vicuñas avoided areas selected by pumas and reduced activity at night, but selected vegetated areas and increased activity by day and dawn/dusk. Vicuña habitat selection and movement strategies appeared to reduce the risk of encountering pumas; movement rates of pumas and vicuñas were negatively correlated across the diel cycle, and habitat selection was negatively correlated during dawn/dusk and night. Our study shows that an ambush predator’s temporal activity and space use patterns interact to create diel refugia and shape the antipredator behaviors of its prey. Importantly, it is likely the very nature of ambush predators’ static habitat specificity that makes predator activity important to temporally varying perceptions of risk. Prey which depend on risky habitats for foraging appear to mitigate risk by feeding when they can more easily detect predators and when predators are least active.