The Department of Agricultural, Food, Environmental and Animal Sciences (DI4A) at the University of Udine, in collaboration with Friuli Venezia Giulia regional authorities, within northeastern Italy, set up a wildlife monitoring and surveillance regional network, named InfoFaunaFVG. Here we describe the development and application of this data repository system based on a novel progressive web application, and report the data gathered in the first two and a half years of its use. InfoFaunaFVG is made of a Web Database and an integrated WebGIS system. In particular, the following open source softwares are used: Apache HTTP Server, Oracle MySQL, Symfony, Apache Tomcat, GeoServer, OpenLayers. The web app can be accessed from any web browser or by installing the progressive web application in the desktop or mobile devices. In short, operating from November 2019, InfoFaunaFVG currently (April 2022) contains a total of 40,175 records, from 300 different users, from 16 institutions. Among all species recorded, mammals were 40% (16,018) of the total, whereas avian species represented 59% (23,741), and others (reptiles and amphibians) 1% (416), respectively. Two hundred twenty-six different species (175 avian and 51 mammals) were recorded. Details about causes of death and live animal rescue were reported. To date, InfoFaunaFVG has proven to be a successful wildlife data repository system providing high quality consistent, accurate and traceable data. These had a considerable impact on regional wildlife governance. In the authors’ knowledge, InfoFaunaFVG is the first example described in literature of such a progressive web application, coordinated on an institutional level, and not based on voluntary-citizen observations. InfoFaunaFVG has the potential to become the largest wildlife monitoring and surveillance data repository system on a national level.
The giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) is classified as a vulnerable species but is commonly received in rescue centers and zoos. Establishing hematological and biochemical reference intervals of free-ranging animals is an important tool to assess the health of both captive and wild populations. Reference values for 53 free-ranging giant anteaters in the Cerrado savanna of Mato Grosso do Sul state were established and differences across sexes and age groups were tested. Significant differences (p ≤ 0.05) between age groups (juvenile and adult) were found for hematocrit, mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC), lymphocytes, monocytes, platelets, total protein, globulin, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), and phosphorus. Between sexes, the only value that showed a significant difference was platelets. The data from the present study were also compared with previous studies and a worldwide zoological databank (ZIMS). White blood cell values were higher in all the studies with free-ranging giant anteaters compared to captive individuals. The relative eosinophils reference interval from our study was the highest ever reported for the species. This paper is the first published study with biochemical values for free-ranging giant anteaters and provides important reference intervals for future giant anteater in situ and ex situ conservation initiatives and highlights the importance of more veterinary research with comparative aspects between wild and captive animals.
Climate might directly or indirectly affect the population dynamics of several rodent species including Apodemus flavicollis, a very common forest small mammal and an important reservoir for several emerging zoonotic pathogens. We thus investigated how climatic data alone might be useful to predict rodent population dynamics. We used rodent data gathered through a long-term monitoring effort carried out for 17 years (2000–2017) using a capture-mark-recapture method in northern Italy. Temperature and precipitation data were obtained from a weather station close to the study area. Linear models were implemented to assess how mice density was associated with weather conditions considering various time lags. We found that warmer summers 2 years before sampling were positively related to A. flavicollis annual average population densities. Conversely, precipitation occurring the autumn 1 year before sampling negatively influenced mice abundance. To the best of our knowledge, this is one of the first attempts at investigating how rodent abundance is associated with climatic conditions in the central European region of the Alps. Our results highlight important correlations, which eventually might be used for estimating risk of transmission of rodent-borne zoonotic pathogens.
Overabundant populations of wild boar (Sus scrofa) are frequent where anthropogenic food is easily available and where hunting is limited. Improving recreational hunting efficacy may contribute to manage these populations. However, we do not know the factors modulating hunting efficacy in a hunting day (i.e., proportion of individuals culled from a population). Additionally, we need to explore which factors drive hunting efficacy in shooting opportunities (i.e., proportion of hunted individuals from a wild boar group in individual shooting opportunities). Here, we analyze the factors explaining wild boar hunting efficacy at the scale of driven hunt and shooting opportunity. Hunting efficacy was surveyed in 92 driven hunts (2017–2018 to 2020–2021 hunting seasons) and in 145 shooting opportunities in Sierra de Gredos (central Spain). We found that hunting efficacy at the scale of the driven hunt was mainly modulated by the number of hunting posts. Indeed, maximum levels of 82 posts showed a fourfold hunting efficacy (59%) compared to minimum levels reaching six hunting posts (16%). At the scale of the shooting opportunity, hunting efficacy was mainly driven by wild boar group size, being negatively related to hunting efficacy: the higher the number of individuals in the group, the lower the shooting efficacy (13-fold; 41% for an individual, 3% for individuals belonging to groups > 7 individuals). Given the need of maintaining native wild boar populations at densities compatible with biodiversity conservation, rural economy, and animal and public health, efforts towards facilitating more hunters per event would improve wild boar hunting efficacy.
Monitoring rare and elusive species is critical in guiding appropriate conservation management measures. Mammalian carnivores are challenging to monitor directly, due to their generally nocturnal and solitary lifestyle, and relatively large home ranges. The European mink Mustela lutreola is a critically endangered, small, semi-aquatic carnivore and is one of the most threatened mammal species in Europe. In northern Spain, the European mink population is monitored regionally using different methods and approaches, making assessment of national population status difficult. There is an urgent need to 1) assess the efficacy of survey methods and 2) identify a standard monitoring methodology that can be deployed rapidly and inexpensively over large areas of the mink’s range. We deployed four methods—camera trapping, hair tubes, live trapping, and environmental DNA (eDNA) from water samples—to compare the probability of detecting European mink when present at 25 sampling sites within five 10 × 10 km2, and the economic cost and time required for each method. All four methods successfully detected European mink but the probability of detection varied by method. Camera trapping and hair tubes had the highest probability of detection; however, eDNA and live trapping detected mink in one 10 × 10 km2 where the latter two methods did not. For future European mink monitoring programs, we recommend a combination of at least two methods and suggest that camera traps or hair tubes are combined with live trapping or eDNA (depending on the scale and aims of the study), to gather critical information on distribution, occupancy and conservation status.
Data on SARS-CoV-2 infection in wildlife species is limited. The high prevalences found in mustelid species such as free-ranging American minks (Neovison vison) and domestic ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) justify the study of this virus in the closely related autochthonous free-ranging European polecat (Mustela putorius). We analysed lung samples from 48 roadkilled polecats collected when the human infection reached its highest levels in Spain (2020-2021). We did not detect infections by SARS-CoV-2; however, surveillance in wild carnivores and particularly in mustelids is still warranted, due to their susceptibility to this virus.
This paper reviews concepts and methods for the economic valuation of nature in the context of wildlife conservation and questions them in light of alternative approaches based on deliberation. Economic valuations have been used to set priorities, consider opportunity costs, assess co-benefits of conservation, support the case for conservation in public awareness and advocacy, and drive novel schemes to change incentives. We discuss the foundational principles of mainstream economic valuation in terms of its assumptions about values, markets, and human behaviour; propose a list of valuation studies in relation to wildlife protection; and explain the methods used. We then review critiques of these approaches focusing on the narrow way in which economics conceives of values, and institutional, power, and equity concerns. Finally, we complement conventional approaches commonly used for wildlife valuation with two forms of deliberative valuation: deliberated preferences and deliberative democratic monetary valuation. These are discussed in terms of their potential to address the drawbacks of mainstream economics and to realise the potential of valuation in bridging conservation of nature for its own sake and its important contributions to human well-being.
The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10344-023-01658-2.
Great apes show strong attachment to their nesting sites, which provide them with substantial survival elements. Their nesting behaviors are influenced by geographical and ecological variables including habitat type, slope, elevation gradients, and sometimes anthropogenic pressures. This study aimed to assess environmental variables that influenced Ebo gorillas’ (Gorilla gorilla) nesting behavior in relation to nesting site selection, nest types, and nesting materials. We collected data from January 2013 to November 2017 along reconnaissance tracks (recce, hereafter) using the marked nest counting method. We recorded an encounter rate of 0.16 nesting sites per km, with an average number of four nests per gorilla group. The mean nest diameter was 90.33 ± 23.92 cm (n = 640, range 25–199 cm). Ebo gorillas preferred nesting sites at high altitude located in grassland areas with open canopy, ligneous undergrowth composition, and very closed visibility. They used more than 281 plant species as materials for nesting, with Marantaceae and Zingiberaceae species being the most common material used. Terrestrial herbaceous nests were the most common nest type (55%). During the dry season, gorillas visited more often the mature forest habitat and mostly constructed arboreal nests. Finally, reuse of nesting sites was minimal (16%), and re-visitation intervals ranged from 3 days to 33 months. Our study is the first systematic investigation of gorilla nesting behavior within the Ebo forest, constituting therefore an important starting point for the long-term conservation planning for this little-known population.
The main focus of this work was to study the use of freshwater wetlands by 12 waterbirds (4 resident species and 8 Palearctic migrant species) during the wintering period in West Bengal, India. From morning to evening hours, the time budget of waterbirds changed significantly. The differences in diurnal activities between migrants and residents were statistically significant. Foraging niche overlaps were calculated based on foraging habitats and techniques; five migrant species had exceedingly high niche overlaps (habitats 0.80–0.99; techniques 0.79–0.99). Overlap among resident birds or migrant species was much lower (habitats 0.01–0.56; techniques 0.01–0.66). Niche dimensions like the foraging habitats (1.26–3.47) and foraging techniques (1.13–4.54) and these two dimensions together (1.64–8.63) calculated the niche breadths. A mean Euclidean distance of 5.63 in Cluster analysis constructed on two niche dimensions reliably defined four distinct guilds. The post hoc test highlighted significant differences between the intra-guild niche breadths. Proportional differences in the uses of foraging habitats and techniques and temporal variations in foraging activities accommodated residents and winter migrants in the study sites. Such information would be crucially important for the conservation and effective management strategies of Indian waterbirds and their habitats, situated along the East Asian-Australian and Central Asian Flyways, which are significant tropical wintering grounds for migratory waterbirds.
Agricultural landscapes had been inhabited by a vast number of bird species in the past; however, especially in the last decades, agricultural intensification had negatively affected habitat composition. Habitat heterogeneity decreased and the number of many species inhabiting farmland has severely declined. These landscapes still offer a home for species, but with decreasing environmental variability, less suitable habitat might be available and interspecific competition might have been altered. Agricultural fields under organic farming are often assumed to provide adequate habitats for farmland birds, thus competition for these areas might be high and affect species' habitat selection. We compared habitat selection of two typical farmland bird species, Grey Partridges (Perdix perdix) and Common Pheasants (Phasianus colchicus), to determine the extent of habitat overlap in agricultural landscapes under organic and conventional farming in spring. Our study showed that both species preferred study squares with high habitat heterogeneity. In addition, squares with agricultural fields (e.g. without culture, winter cereals and fallow land) under organic farming were preferred by Grey Partridges, while Common Pheasants were mainly found on study squares containing agricultural fields under conventional farming. A broad habitat width in respect to food selection might have driven habitat choice of Common Pheasants; however, occupation of agricultural fields under organic farming by Grey Partridge males might also explain habitat selection of Common Pheasants. Awareness should be raised when releasing captive-rearing pheasants because interspecific competition between Grey Partridges and Common Pheasants could also affect fecundity and survival of both species.
Stakeholder involvement in wildlife management is important and requires knowledge about factors motivating such participation. With several goose populations increasing in Europe and goose management incorporating multiple objectives, involvement of stakeholder groups with diverse interests is needed. In this study, we examined how evaluations of geese (attitude and acceptance capacity), but also experiences of birdwatching and birdwatcher identity, were associated with willingness to participate in local goose management. A survey among members of Sweden’s largest birdwatching organization was conducted (n = 5010). The majority of respondents, 64%, displayed a divided evaluation of geese, most frequently in terms of an overall positive attitude towards geese but a low acceptance for current goose population levels (i.e. acceptance capacity). Birdwatchers’ willingness to participate in goose management was generally low. Whereas they were more willing to take part in goose counts (i.e. monitoring) than to participate in local goose management groups, they were least willing to contribute to mitigating crop damage through scaring geese. Results further revealed that birdwatchers with a divided evaluation of geese and an entirely positive evaluation displayed the highest willingness to participate in goose management. However, a stronger distinct birdwatcher identity as a result of more birdwatching experiences was even more strongly associated with higher willingness to take part in goose management. The results highlight a need to intensify efforts to engage stakeholder groups with an interest in conservation issues in the participatory goose management system in Europe.
Attacks by wolves (Canis lupus) on dogs (C. familiaris) presumably are motivated both by preying and elimination of potential competitors. Regardless of these alternative motivations in wolves, the risk of attacks might be higher when the density of primary prey is low. We examined how many dogs do territorial wolves in Finland kill in relation to the population density of the most abundant ungulates, moose (Alces alces), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). Most attacks by wolves on dogs take place in hunting with dogs. The number of wolf-killed dogs was in highly significant negative relationship to the population density of white-tailed deer and to total ungulate biomass per unit area which is largely determined by the density of white-tailed deer. Our results indicate that abundant wild prey would decrease the risk at which wolves attack dogs. On the other side of the coin prevail two hard facts which wildlife managers had to take a notice. White-tailed deer, although a potential mitigator of wolf–human conflict, is an alien species and a partner in > 6000 traffic collisions annually in Finland. One factor that seemed to increase the risk of wolf attacks on dogs is the low ungulate density in regions where moose is the only remarkable ungulate prey. Higher moose densities could decrease the risk of attacks, but on the other hand, higher densities could increase the risk of serious traffic collisions and browsing damages in forests.
Antlers are formed anew each year to realise an optimal relationship between their size and weight and the physical body condition in Cervidae. This results in the objective to match fighting abilities with size and mechanical performance of the antlers, as well as to advertise these correlated abilities to other males and females. The resulting variation in individual antler characteristics from year to year can show considerable differences. To characterise and understand these differences is important in hunting, game management and deer breeding, as well as potentially to assess the habitat quality. However, relatively few traits of the antler have been scientifically tested for this purpose, and only a few studies were conducted on the same individual in free-ranging red deer over the years. The objective of the present study was to quantify the influence of the individual (repeatability), the age and the site on the expression of 125 antler characteristics. For this purpose, we collected 35 stags with an average of about 10 consecutive antlers per individual (confirmed by genetic analysis), a total of 355 antlers. The antlers were scanned 3-dimensionally and measured semi-automatically. Numbers, lengths, distances, circumferences, bending, curvatures, angles, forms and CIC (International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation) characteristics were compiled and evaluated in a generalised linear mixed model adapted to the distribution of the characteristics. The complete model explained 1.6 to 83% of character variation. Mean repeatability of the characteristics varied between 2.7 and 74.4%. The stags’ age explained 0 to 36.4%, and the side explained 0 to 2.5% of the variability. Some characteristics of burr, signet, beam and the lower tines reached the highest repeatability; the highest variability was found in characteristics of the crown. Values of 11 features that are frequently used in other studies corresponded very well with the present study. However, some features reached higher repeatability every year, whereas others varied more closely with age. Such characteristics might be selectively included into further research or practical applications to increase informative value.
Wild boar (Sus scrofa) are known an important reservoir for multiple infectious diseases. While the burden exerted by disease from the free-range wild boar in China has not been evaluated. In northeastern China, where the boundary to the Russian Federal Far East, the big cat protection projects across the two countries and the unstopped epidemics of canine distemper (CD) and rabies (RV) in Far East Russia arouse our great concern. Revealing the epidemiological information has become a pressing matter of the moment. The 358 serum samples from hybrid wild boar collected along the Sino-Russia boundary in 11 cities in Heilongjiang province were tested by cELISA for antibodies of RV and canine distemper virus (CDV). The AusVet Epitools program was run to estimate the true prevalence, which revealed the positive rate of RV and CDV antibodies to be 10.06% (95% CI 7.14, 13.65) and 0.56% (95% CI 0.07, 2), respectively. The highest RV seroprevalences were reported in Huanan county of Jiamusi city (100%) followed by Ningan county of Mudanjiang city (42.86%). CDV antibody was only identified in Hegang city with a seroprevalence of 12.5%. The overall true prevalence for RV and CDV were estimated as 10.07% (95% CI 7.19, 13.85) and −0.04% (95% CI −0.48, 1.51). No association was found between antibody responses and city, gender, and age. The study for the first time reported the prevalence of RV and CDV based on the antibody investigation in wild boar in the Heilongjiang province of China. We share our monitoring results would aid in the construction of the epidemiological history of CDV and RV in the Heilongjiang province of China.
Since 2017, a reinforcement programme was developed to save the last, endangered, Belgian population of black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), in the High Fens Natural Park. To improve the success of this programme, an analysis of past data of this population was undertaken to understand the causes of its past decline. A time series analysis was applied, using annual spring male census data recorded between 1967 and 2016. In the period 1967-1993, there was a fluctuation around an equilibrium of a population of ca. 40-45 males. The peak of 85 males observed in 1971 was probably due to a succession of several favourable years in terms of environmental conditions, albeit without an exceptional annual growth rate. It seems that fox density, by using the occurrence of rabies as a proxy, has an impact on the black grouse population. After 1993, the population dynamic changed drastically, decreasing continuously until finally reaching quasi-extinction. On average, the population lost 15.4% of its size each year. Climate models, applied in previous studies to explain these population trends in the High Fens, failed to describe this major modification in this population's dynamic and its recent decline. We suggest that this negative effect was mainly induced by a significant increase in predation by red fox (Vulpes vulpes), whose abundance has increased considerably since the 1990s, in particular, as a consequence of the eradication of fox rabies. We also discuss alternative hypotheses, such as the impact of other predator species, modification of the natural environment and climatic modifications.
The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10344-023-01642-w.
Migratory organisms can be vectors of parasitic host organisms that can then be transported along seasonal migratory journeys and spread across continents. Ornithophilic nidicolous ticks (e.g. soft ticks) include species responsible for the transmission of pathogens and bacteria, thus representing a health problem not only for wild species that are directly parasitized, but also for those that share the same environments or reproductive sites with them. In this regard, artificial nests for birds may turn out to be site-sources of parasites. Here, we document the occurrence of different life stages of Argas persicus ticks in nest boxes of wild birds in a natural area (not associated with poultry activities) of central coastal Italy (Maremma Regional Park, Tuscany). Between 2018 and 2022, 168 ticks were collected from nest boxes occupied by different secondary cavity-nesting birds, such as European rollers Coracias garrulus and scops owl Otus scops. Ticks were analysed morphologically, and selected specimens were also identified by mitochondrial ribosomal 16S (16S) subunit gene to ascertain their taxonomic status. All ticks were identified as Argas persicus. This finding not only suggests that this tick species has formed a viable population in this Italian region, but also further confirms the previously doubtful natural origin of the species at country level and sheds new light on its underestimated and little investigated distribution. Possible pathways of introduction and its potential impacts on local avian community are discussed.
Although the raccoon dog Nyctereutes procyonoides has a wide global distribution, little is known about its population in Vietnam. The species is considered rare in Vietnam, and few records have been published since 2004, although it is worth noting that all of these records were wildlife trade observations or anecdotal reports. Here, we report raccoon dogs recorded in the illegal wildlife trade via Facebook monitoring from January to December 2020, rescued animals documented in the Nghe An province caught by a hunter in August 2020, and camera trap records of the species detected in Pu Mat National Park in May and July 2021. Our camera trap recordings provide evidence of a southern range extension for this species in Vietnam and represent the first documented occurrence of raccoon dogs captured in situ by camera traps within the country.
During deep snow conditions, wildlife must balance between minimizing movements to conserve energy while seeking high amounts of browse to gain the energy. Knowledge of how snow begins to hinder their movements is therefore vital when predicting their wintertime behavior. We assessed the phenomenon with moose. Movement data from 122 GPS-collared moose were integrated with snow depth data from designated measurement stations. The effects of increasing snow depths on moose movement rates were then modeled with spline regression. The study was conducted in Finland, between 2009 and 2011. The moose were known for their sex and for the presence of calf at heel. On average, the movement rates decreased sharply until snow depths of ca. 30–40 cm, after which further significant decreases were not seen. The movement rates decreased from several kilometers per day to less than 500 m per day. Moose in the northernmost study area with the deepest snow covers moved as much as the moose in the other areas with less snow. Although we saw differences in the movement rates between males and females, differences between individuals were markedly higher than those caused by sex or a calf at heel. Moose are keystone species whose heavy browsing, especially during winter, can have profound effects on vegetation and forest regeneration. As snow covers in large parts of the boreal zone are predicted to decrease due to warming climate, the wintertime movements of moose and how they affect the local vegetation will remain relevant questions.
Surveys based on indirect signs and camera trapping are two non-invasive methods extensively used for monitoring elusive mammals. Both approaches can be useful to obtain key information on wildlife in remote areas, since they may allow for the logistically viable design of optimal field frameworks. The sand cat (Felis margarita) is a feline that inhabits the Sahara Desert, the Arabian Peninsula, and western Asian deserts. Its basic ecology is poorly known and the status and impacts of threats are difficult to assess. Some local population declines have been detected, and more research is needed. Based on field surveys carried out in the Atlantic Sahara, we have evaluated the applications of both methods to study this species. Our results show that (a) camera trapping provided reliable data on several key aspects of its ecology, (b) walking surveys to collect feces for molecular data failed completely, and (c) for footprints, identification problems and the marked effects of the absence of optimal substrates and the prevalence of wind are relevant handicaps. Beyond this evaluation, we provide for the first time some key aspects of the ecology of sand cats in the Sahara Desert, including habitat selection, density, diel activity, and predator–prey relationships.
Different non-invasive techniques have been used to determine herbivore diet composition from fecal samples, including micro-histological analysis of epidermal fragments. This method can provide reliable semi-quantitative data through the identification of plant cell structures visualized under an optical microscope. However, this method is highly time-consuming and it requires significant expertise in microscopic identification. Since micro-histological analysis is based on pattern recognition, artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to make this method more time efficient through automated identification and counting of epidermal fragments. We developed a software application based on an AI model that, appropriately trained, could identify and count epidermal fragments from photographed microscope slides. We compared the performance of this model to that of visual identification by a trained observer using in vitro mixtures of fragments from two plant species, Arbutus unedo and Rubia peregrina, with very different epidermal characteristics. Both the human observer and the AI model estimated proportions of plant fragments very close to those of the original mixtures. In addition, once trained, the AI model was over 350 times faster in identifying and counting fragments compared to a human observer. Our study highlights the potential of AI to be applied to the study of herbivore diets for labor-intensive pattern recognition tasks.
Habitat fragmentation is one of the most important threats to biodiversity in the last decades. Numerous species are forced to adapt to human presence as urbanization keeps increasing. Some studies show the impact of habitat changes in various species; however, there is little knowledge about the effect of habitat disturbance on hedgehogs in the Iberian Peninsula. We radio tracked 31 male hedgehogs: 14 European hedgehogs and 17 Algerian hedgehogs, being 18 individuals indigenous and 13 translocated. We analysed their home ranges, spatial behaviour and habitat use in a suburban area of Valencia City, Spain, where the two species coexist. Our results show that there are phenologic variations of activity levels, which differ between species, being maximum in spring for the European hedgehog and in summer for the Algerian hedgehog. We did not detect a territorial behaviour or interspecific spatial competition. However, we could detect a clear “release effect”, with translocated individuals presenting increased home range sizes and activity levels as they explore the unknown environment. Furthermore, we found that both species showed a clear preference for the pine forest habitat, avoiding all other habitat types, especially those with high human presence. Our results also suggest that the European hedgehog has a more generalist character than the Algerian hedgehog regarding habitat use. In conclusion, this study highlights the importance of conserving a connected mosaic of green patches in urbanized environments for the conservation of hedgehog populations.
European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa) are main small game species of conservation concern in Mediterranean ecosystems. To date, their presence in wild boar’s (Sus scrofa) diet and factors driving their consumption have been little investigated. A genetic metabarcoding approach was used on 80 wild boar faeces collected from four hunting estates devoted to small game hunting during two different seasons. Abundances of wild boar, rabbits and partridges were first estimated. Results showed DNA of seventeen chordate species. The highest frequency of occurrence (FO) corresponded to mammals and birds, with 77.6 and 22.3%, respectively. DNA of game species was detected in 39/71 (FO = 55.0%) samples, highlighting the presence of European wild rabbit in 27 (FO = 38.0%) and red-legged partridge in eight (FO = 11.3%). Dietary composition varied between seasons and estates, being rabbit the main responsible (explaining 35.26% and 39.45% of differences, respectively). Rabbit FO in the diet was positively related to the abundance of wild boar and rabbit density on the estate. It was greater in autumn and in estates where rabbits were hunted. Regarding red-legged partridge, a significant and positive relationship between its population density and its diet FO was observed, without significant differences between seasons or estates. Overall, our results suggest wild boar as an opportunistic species whose diet is largely determined by the relative availability of different food resources. Its ecological role concerning small game species in Mediterranean agroecosystems seems to be more related to consumption of carrion during the hunting season than to direct predation.
As part of a long-term monitoring program, more than 80 Mediterranean ospreys Pandion haliaetus (both adults and juveniles) were tagged with GPS-GSM transmitters and tracked to study their spatiotemporal behaviour. Here we document the peculiar and unexpected migration movements performed by three inexperienced (juvenile/immature) individuals, who crossed the open sea “ against the flow ”, in the opposite direction to that foreseen for the given season. Using a combination of GPS tracking data and weather information, we found that such movements were linked to particular meteorological conditions occurring over the Mediterranean Sea during migration. Mean values of wind gust of approximately 20 km/h and moderate tailwinds seem to have mediated the onset of the movements, facilitating the flight of ospreys over water. Our findings suggest that both weather conditions (sidewinds) and the inexperience of the birds explain these long migration movements performed towards unexpected directions over the open sea. We conclude that migratory capabilities and the ability to cope with external conditions may lead inexperienced birds to perform extensive and tortuous dispersal/explotrative movements during both first autumn and spring migration.
Large carnivores are vulnerable to population decline due to their k-selected traits in fragmented human-dominated landscapes. In the semi-arid landscape of western India, tiger (top predator) populations went locally extinct from most of the forested ecosystems, while the mesopredators (leopards, hyenas, wolves) managed to survive in these mosaics of forest, agriculture, pasturelands, ravines, and human habitations. In this study, we used camera traps to survey two protected areas (PAs) in the semi-arid western Indian landscape—Mukundara (without tigers) and Ranthambhore (with high-density tiger population)—and compare the abundance and activity of mesopredators between sites to assess the effect of top predator presence on mesopredators. The carnivore community was more diverse in Ranthambhore (well-protected) than in the human disturbed habitats of Mukundara; however, the relative abundance of mesopredators was higher in Mukundara. Striped hyena density was estimated higher in Mukundara (40.6 ± 7.36/100 km2) than in Ranthambhore (9.3 ± 1.3/100 km2), while leopard density estimates were comparable (Mukundara, 10.9 ± 3.0/100 km2; Ranthambhore, 11.2 ± 1.6/100 km2). Temporal activities of carnivores in Mukundara indicated avoidance of human disturbance, while in Ranthambhore, it seemed primarily governed by competitive interactions between carnivores. Our findings are indicative of the mesopredator release hypothesis, where the number of mesopredators increased in the absence of top predator; however, the results are confounded by differential resource availability, human disturbance, and poaching levels between sites. The outcomes emphasised the importance of conserving habitat fragments (irrespective of charismatic species’ presence) in human-dominated landscapes to conserve carnivore populations. Conservation investments should focus on habitat protection, securing inviolate areas inside the PAs and restoring connectivity between PAs.
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is an infectious disease which thrives at the wildlife-livestock interface. Exmoor has the largest herd of wild red deer (Cervus elaphus) in England, and also a large number of dairy and beef farms. The population, health and well-being of the herd are managed by a combination of hunting with hounds and by stalking. This study used a serological assay to determine the incidence of bTB in the population of 106 wild red deer of Exmoor, the relationship between regional deer densities and the presence of bTB in deer, and domestic cattle. The overall number of bTB positive deer was 28.3% (30/106). Stalked deer had a slightly higher incidence of bTB (19 out of 55, 34.55%) than hunted deer (11 out of 51, 21.57%). There was no clear pattern of distribution except for one region which showed an incidence of 42.22% compared with 16.4% in the remainder of the moor. There was little difference in the incidence of bTB between male and female animals. The age of animals in the study ranged from < 1 year to over 10 years. There was no clear difference in the incidence across the age range (< 1 year– > 10 years) with the exception of a particularly high incidence in those animals aged 1 year or less. There was a significant correlation between the presence of deer with bTB and the number of farms reporting bTB positive cattle, but not between the regional population of red deer and bTB in deer or cattle.
The spread of tuberculosis (TB) in Asian countries is mainly due to co-existence and close association of humans with elephants and other domestic livestock. Infected animals tend to shed the organism in the preclinical period which risks the transmission of the infection from animals to humans and vice versa. Since tuberculosis infection is chronic and lack specific clinical signs, diagnosis remains challenging. The present study focuses on the utilization of lipoarabinomannan (LAM), a glycolipid for the detection of TB infection in elephants. Usage of urine as the biological sample for the diagnosis makes it more advantageous. Seroprevalence of tuberculosis (TB) in elephants in Kerala were found to be 37.2% (n = 86) using Chembio DPP VetTB assay. Nine (10.46%) out of 86 elephants were positive for AFB and 29 (33.7%) out of 86 elephants were positive for LAM antigen. On comparison of efficiency of LF-LAM assay with that of DPP VetTB assay, LF-LAM assay had a sensitivity of 90.63%, specificity 100%, positive predictive value 100%, negative predictive value 94.7%, accuracy 95.51%, and kappa statistic value 0.924 (p value < 0.001). On comparison of LF-LAM with traditional acid fast staining method, LF-LAM assay had the sensitivity of 100%, specificity 74.03%, positive predictive value 31%, negative predictive value 100%, accuracy 76.74%, and kappa statistic value 0.374 (p value < 0.001). The presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis was confirmed in trunk wash sample using PCR targeting gene IS6110, at 245 bp amplicon size and 25 seropositive elephants (78.2%) were confirmed positive. Custom sequencing and phylogenetic analysis revealed that the isolate obtained was Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This study in elephants prove that TB LAM Ag (LF-LAM) can be used as potent biomarker for diagnosis of tuberculosis in elephants.
Hunter-collected data and samples are used as indices of population performance, and monitoring programs often take advantage of such data as ecological indicators. Here, we establish the relationships between measures of skeleton size (lower jawbone length and hind-leg length) and autumn carcass mass of slaughtered individuals of known age and sex of the high Arctic and endemic Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus). We assess these relationships using a long-term monitoring dataset derived from hunted or culled reindeer. The two skeleton measures were generally strongly correlated within age class. Both jaw length (R² = 0.78) and hind-leg length (R² = 0.74) represented good proxies of carcass mass. These relationships were primarily due to an age effect (i.e. due to growth) as the skeleton measures reached an asymptotic size at 4–6 years of age. Accordingly, strong positive correlations between skeleton measures and carcass mass were mainly evident at the young age classes (range r [0.45–0.84] for calves and yearlings). For the adults, these relationships weakened due to skeletal growth ceasing in mature animals causing increased variance in mass with age—potentially due to the expected substantial impacts of annual environmental fluctuations. As proxies for carcass mass, skeleton measurements should therefore be limited to young individuals. Although body mass is the ‘gold standard’ in monitoring large herbivores, our results indicate that skeleton measures collected by hunters only provide similar valuable information for young age classes, particularly calves and yearlings. In sum, jaw length and hind-leg length function as proxies identical to body mass when documenting the impacts of changing environmental conditions on important state variables for reindeer and other herbivores inhabiting highly variable environments.
Historically, the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) was distributed along the coastline comprised by the five Mexican states that border the Gulf of Mexico. However, the few healthy populations that currently exist in Mexico are now
limited to relatively isolated regions with very specific habitat characteristics. In the state of Veracruz, a limited number of individuals are found in the Alvarado Lagoon System (ALS), located in the coastal zone of southern central Veracruz. The aim of this study was to characterize manatee habitat in the ALS. Transects were established in the ALS and 503 points selected and sampled along these transects, producing data pertaining to salinity, depth, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved solids,
surface water temperature, pH, bottom type, and conductivity. A total of 45 outings were conducted, with a total sampling effort of 332.36 h. The average physicochemical parameters found were as follows: salinity 3.33 ppm, total dissolved solids 0.51 g/l, temperature 26.29 °C, dissolved oxygen 0.51%, pH 7.55, and oxidation–reduction potential 417.04 mV. Thirteen manatees were observed, mostly (84.6%) during the cold, where the parameters of electrical conductivity, salinity, total dissolved solids, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and oxidation-reduction potential showed differences between the sampled seasons, and in the lagoons with a presence of the floating and submersible vegetation species that form part of manatees’ diet. This study shows that the ALS presents lagoons that favor the presence of the Antillean manatee, further narrowing the distribution of the species within the same ALS in the southern central zone of the state of Veracruz.
Expanding on the foundation of Zeitschrift für Jagdwissenschaft in 1955, the European Journal of Wildlife Research (EJWR) continues to publish original research and reviews on all aspects of wildlife science regardless of the geographic region. Eighteen years after publication of the first issue of EJWR, we briefly reflect on the journal’s profile and prospects. Our target audience includes researchers, wildlife biologists, forestry and game management professionals, wildlife veterinarians, and other specialists, but we also aim at providing a resource of relevant information and scientific debate for practitioners and every person interested in wildlife science. With ecosystems being at the highest level of pressure due to land use change and other effects of the global crisis, the journal is in a key position to communicate relevant research to the scientific community around the world.
Monitoring the occupancy and abundance of wildlife populations is key to evaluate their conservation status and trends. However, estimating these parameters often involves time and resource-intensive techniques, which are logistically challenging or even unfeasible for rare and elusive species that occur patchily and in small numbers. Hence, surveys based on field identification of signs (e.g. faeces, footprints) have long been considered a cost-effective alternative in wildlife monitoring, provided they produce reliable detectability and meaningful indices of population abundance. We tested the use of sign surveys for monitoring rare and otherwise elusive small mammals, focusing on the Cabrera vole ( Microtus cabrerae ) in Portugal. We asked how sampling intensity affects true positive detection of the species, and whether sign abundance is related to population size. We surveyed Cabrera voles’ latrines in 20 habitat patches known to be occupied, and estimated ‘true’ population size at each patch using DNA-based capture-recapture techniques. We found that a searching rate of ca. 3 min/250m ² of habitat based on adaptive guided transects was sufficient to provide true positive detection probabilities > 0.85. Sign-based abundance indices were at best moderately correlated with estimates of ‘true’ population size, and even so only for searching rates > 12 min/250m ² . Our study suggests that surveys based on field identification of signs should provide a reliable option to estimate occupancy of Cabrera voles, and possibly for other rare or elusive small mammals, but cautions should be exercised when using this approach to infer population size. In case of practical constraints to the use of more accurate methods, a considerable sampling intensity is needed to reliably index Cabrera voles’ abundance from sign surveys.
Over the last few decades, the beaver has settled most of the European continent including the Czech Republic. Until recently, it was a species typically found in lowland floodplain forests. However, as the population grew, it began to spread into the agricultural landscape, where it has less favorable living conditions. In the Czech Republic, beavers were known to concentrate especially in large forest complexes; little information is so far available about their settlement of the agricultural landscape. At the same time, beaver management in the Czech Republic is applied according to zones with different levels of protection for this species; therefore, the assessment of beaver populations in different environmental conditions is essential. The article focuses on beaver population density, home range length, distribution, and dispersion in the four main types of environments, as well as on differences in food selection. Beaver population density is the highest in forest localities with small streams; the beaver finds the most suitable living conditions there. On average, the agricultural landscape is less populated. While population density in large rivers in the agricultural landscape is comparable to that in large rivers in the forest due to environmental conditions that can be similar, small streams in the agricultural landscape are inhabited 3.3 times less than small streams in forests because they are generally unsuitable environments with limited resources. The lengths of home ranges depend on the environment, the density of beavers, and especially on the availability of food resources. Likewise, the distances that beavers search for food differ, thus affecting their spatial activity.
The UK supports a quarter of Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata, so a recent halving of numbers has impacted the global population. Low breeding success is a frequently cited cause of decline. We considered breeding success in relation to predator indices and habitat measures within 18 moorland-farmland blocks across several UK regions. Each block comprised one site where gamekeepers lethally controlled predators on moors managed for red grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica (grouse moor) and another on similar habitat where predators were not controlled (non-grouse moor). More wader species occurred on grouse moors, which supported twice the density of waders as non-grouse moors. Curlew productivity was fourfold higher on grouse moors (1.05 fledglings pair-¹) than non-grouse moors (0.27). Hatching and fledging success was negatively linked to a combined index of corvids and fox, which were three- to fourfold fewer on grouse moors but were unrelated to 11 habitats and two livestock grazing variables. Similar patterns were observed in three of four other wader species. These behaviour-based findings were validated by observations on actual nests and broods. Grouse moors appear to act as source populations, thereby slowing the current rapid decline. To halt declines and promote curlew recovery in the UK uplands, we recommend that predator control on grouse moors is maintained and longer term land use policies are developed to render landscapes less friendly to currently high levels of generalist predators.
Elephants influence the structure and composition of African woodlands and, sometimes, damage cultivated trees in farms of local communities. Here, we evaluate the impact of elephant debarking on cultivated cashew trees (Anacardium occidentale) as the friction between farmers and elephant conservation is increasing. We quantified the effects of elephant debarking on tree survival, crown defoliation, and nut production by visiting elephant-damaged farms with cashew trees (n = 47 farms) along Sasawara National Forest (Tanzania). We also compared defoliation and nut production with nearby control trees (undamaged) in a paired designed. Our results reveal that elephants debarked a significant proportion of trees (36% of farms had some cashew trees damaged by elephants, with a mean of 17.3% damaged trees per farm), with a preference for medium-large tree sizes (> 20 cm of diameter at breast height). Tree mortality due to elephants was 4 trees (4.2% of the affected trees), which represents around 0.1% of the total number of trees in the affected farms. In the year of damage, elephant debarking caused no effect on defoliation whereas nut production was reduced only in trees with very high intensity of damage (> 60% of trunk circumference affected). However, a year after the damage, both defoliation and nut production were negatively affected but this effect was strongly dependent on the intensity of damage and tree diameter. These results may help reduce the social discomfort of cashew farmers and contribute to enhance human-elephant coexistence. However, further studies should analyze the future vulnerability of damaged trees to fires, pathogens or pests.
Supplemental feeding of cervids during winter is a widespread management practice, but feeding may increase the risk of disease transmission. Therefore, legal regulations to limit supplemental feeding are often implemented when dealing with severe infectious diseases, such as chronic wasting disease (CWD) in cervids. However, it is currently unclear whether these regulations result in decreased spatial clustering and aggregation as intended. Supplemental feeding is expected to restrict the movement of cervids. Therefore, a ban on feeding may also result in wider space use and a risk of geographic spread of disease. The space use of 63 GPS-marked red deer ( Cervus elaphus ) was investigated before ( n = 34) and after ( n = 29) the implementation of a legal regulation aimed at limiting the supplemental feeding of cervids during winter in a CWD-affected region of Nordfjella, Norway. Snow depth was the main determinant of the space use for red deer. A moderate reduction in the number of GPS positions in spatial clusters was evident during periods of deep snow once the ban was in place. Sizes of core areas (Kernel 50%), home ranges (Kernel 95%), and dispersion (MCP 100%, number of 1 km ² pixels visited per deer) declined from January to March and with increasing snow depth. Dispersion (number of 1 km ² pixels visited per deer) did not depend on snow depth after the ban, and red deer used larger areas when snow depth was high after the ban compared to before. The ban on supplementary feeding had no effect on size of core areas or home ranges. Several potential factors can explain the overall weak effect of the ban on space use, including the use of agricultural fields by red deer, other anthropogenic feeding, and landscape topography. This study highlights that snow depth is the main factor determining space use during winter, and it remains to be determined whether the moderate reduction in spatial clustering during deep snow after the ban was sufficient to lower the risk of disease transmission.
Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata) had become extirpated in parts of their Mediterranean distribution, such as on Mallorca Island (Balearic Islands, Spain). Thanks to reintroduction programs, a new breeding population was reintroduced to the island, between 2011 and 2017. To identify movement patterns within the island, we equipped each reintroduced individual with a GPS device before release to track their movements. Home range of reintroduced eagles were calculated using a KDE — kernel density estimation approach. Although we found that home range size differed for individuals among years and sex, we found a high degree of overlap in home range in the study population. The home range of each individual remained stable in size and shape and few explorative flights outside the delineated home range were observed. In conclusion, reintroduced Bonelli’s eagles have adapted to Mallorca Island by breeding earlier than already established populations, reducing their dispersive behaviour, and accelerating establishment of home ranges.
Citizen science networks have the potential to record data that can be used to diagnose the causes of wildlife mortality events and enable action to prevent recurrence. From 2012 to 2015 and 2017 to 2019, volunteers recorded the occurrence of grounded Common Pipistrelle bats in association with seasonal swarming that takes place during late summer and early autumn at Durham Cathedral cloister, involving up to 197 recorded groundings and 64 confirmed deaths in a single year. Post-mortem examinations were also carried out on a sample of bats that died in the cloister each year from 2017 to 2019. Groundings involved juvenile bats showing a near-typical weight distribution for the time of year, and weight had no influence on the survival of bats undergoing rehabilitation. Grounding frequency generally peaked in August, but varied from year to year in parallel with variation in the timing of swarming. Variation in the daily frequency of groundings was influenced by weather conditions during the previous night and showed a strong positive association with concurrent daytime temperature. Post-mortems revealed no evidence of injury, infectious disease or chemical contamination, but disclosed a range of evidence consistent with acute heatstroke. In aggregate, the results suggest that groundings and deaths occur among juvenile bats that elect to roost within the roof of the cloister walkways during swarming visits, and then suffer heatstroke resulting from direct insolation of the roof and its surrounds during daylight.
Incorporating sex ratios of nestlings into population viability studies increases knowledge of overall health of endangered populations. Currently, a reliable non-invasive method to identify the sex of golden eagle nestlings is not available; however, claims are commonly made based on morphology. Ten biometric measurements from 43 Scottish golden eagles aged 2–7.5 weeks were assessed to see if sex could actually be determined using this non-invasive methodology. Sex was confirmed via molecular analysis of blood samples. Discrete and principal component analyses of the different biometrics could not correctly determine individual nestling sex. Therefore, despite being more invasive, molecular sexing remains the recommended tool of choice for accurate sex identification of Scottish golden eagle nestlings younger than 7.5 weeks of age. This has important implications for golden eagle field studies where empirical morphological measurements are frequently and typically taken, but we have shown are not reliable in determining the sex of such young nestlings.
The golden-striped salamander is a streamside species endemic to the northwestern corner of the Iberian Peninsula. In the first half of the twentieth century, an undisclosed number of individuals of this species were reportedly captured in Buçaco, Central Portugal, and deliberately introduced in Sintra Mountains, 170 km south of its native distribution range. The discovery of a breeding population of this salamander in Sintra during 2015 prompted this work: we used neutral genetic markers, the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b (cytb), and seven microsatellite loci to elucidate on the relict/human-introduced nature of Sintra population, identify the potential source population, and infer the severity of founder effect. Our results support a human-mediated introduction. First, sequencing analysis of cytb showed the presence of a unique haplotype (h31) in Sintra, which was detected only in Buçaco and in two additional populations located close to Mondego river. Second, microsatellite analysis showed that Sintra is more closely related to populations in between Douro and Mondego rivers (Central Portugal), instead of its geographically closest populations (southernmost), as would be expected if Sintra was a relict population isolated in an interglacial refuge. Third, Sintra presents both reduced levels of genetic variability and effective population size when compared to native populations, particularly to those of Central Portugal. Consistent with an isolated population funded by a small number of individuals (inferred herein to be ca. 10–11 salamanders), Sintra forms a geographically coherent genetic unit that is significantly differentiated from the extant native C. lusitanica populations. Although our data provide supporting evidence for Buçaco as a likely source population, as documented in the literature, overall, we cannot unequivocally exclude other populations close to Mondego river as a potential source of the introduced individuals in Sintra.
Eurasian beavers Castor fiber are important ecosystem engineers, able to modify freshwater environments and influence local biodiversity. Beaver activity affects not only aquatic ecosystems but also terrestrial habitats and organisms. In recent times, beaver populations have been detected in Central Italy. In this work, we determined the use of beaver lodges and dams by native animal species in Central Italy through intensive camera trapping between March 2021 and May 2022. Saproxylic beetles were searched by sight in spring and summer on lodges, dams, and gnawed trunks on river shorelines. We collected 132 records belonging to at least 17 species on beaver dams and lodges, several of them of conservation concern (e.g. the European bittern Botaurus stellaris and the endemic water vole Arvicola italicus). The most detected species within beaver structure was the yellow-necked field mouse Apodemus flavicollis, with 67 independent videos. Despite being confirmed as a nocturnal species, in our study area, A. flavicollis showed an activity peak on bright moonlight nights. The lodge may thus be used as a protection site from predation risk for small rodents, which may benefit from the beaver presence. By building dams and lodges, Eurasian beavers can increase habitat heterogeneity, thus promoting biodiversity increase and improvement. The potential expansion of beaver populations into these ecosystems may serve as a biotic restoration strategy.
Artificial food subsidies like landfills generate very strong impacts on animal ecology and spatial behavior. Landfills indeed have been considered to be one of the most influential factors explaining the very fast recovery of many colonial waterbird populations worldwide, as documented for the white stork Ciconia ciconia. More recently, the increase of rice fields in some regions have also been argued to be part of an influencial process underlying the spatio-temporal distribution patterns of this species over many areas in southern Europe. It remains unknown whether these two habitat factors play an important role at explaining the spatial distribution pattern of the white stork and, more particularly, whether colony funding or colony size is dependent on them. Using data from a census conducted in 2018, we aimed to assess the effect of distance to a landfill or to rice fields, among other habitat factors, on the breeding colony size of a white stork population in northern Spain. Larger colonies were more likely to appear in trees or cliff, but less likely in buildings or other artificial substrates. They were also significantly more likely with decreasing distance to landfill, and when the habitat was dominated by dry cropland and meadows close to water bodies. Rice fields did not seem to have any significant effect. Our findings fit with those from other regions in Europe, and highlight the effect landfills have on population dynamics and spatial ecology for those species which are able to feed on this type of food subsidy. Our results also show that the main habitat cover over large geographic scales still plays a role independently of landfills. The European agricultural policies associated with the type and management of crops, and the Common Agricultural Policy in particular, will still have a decisive role for the species.
In Myanmar, the hunting and trade of wildlife are increasingly recognised as a major threat to the persistence of species. We here focus on the trade and conservation of wild sheep and goats (Caprinae; Antilopinae) as these species are indeed hunted and traded for a variety of reasons. Seizure reports from 2000 to 2020 and 20 visits to four wildlife markets between 1998 and 2017 resulted in records of ~ 2,000 body parts, the equivalent of ~ 1,200 wild sheep and goats. When combined with data from previous surveys conducted over the same period, the number of wild sheep and goats recorded in trade increase substantially, i.e. serow (the equivalent of 1,243 animals), goral (213 animals), takin (190 animals), blue sheep (37 animals), and Tibetan antelope (10 animals). With records from 10 out of 15 States, trade appears to be widespread and persistent over time. There was poor concordance between seizure data and trade observations, but data from various surveys are largely in agreement. The most prevalent body parts in trade were horns, followed by plates (the frontal portion of the skull with horns still attached) and heads of freshly killed animals. These parts are offered for sale both for decorations and for their purported medicinal properties. Meat, fat, and rendered oils were observed frequently but because of mixture with other wildlife, it was challenging to confirm species identify or to convert this to number of animal equivalents. Tongues and eyes were offered for sale as medicine. In order to better protect wild sheep and goats in Myanmar, it is imperative that the illegal trade in their parts is more effectively curbed than at present. This is the responsibility of both the Myanmar authorities and, given the high prevalence of trade in border towns, their international partners, including China and Thailand.
Parasite and pathogen surveillance is crucial for understanding trends in their distributions and host spectra, as well as to document changes in their population dynamics. Nevertheless, continuous surveillance is time-consuming, underfunded due to the non-charismatic nature of parasites/pathogens, and research infrastructure is usually limited to short-term surveillance efforts. Species observation data provided by the public can contribute to long-term surveillance of parasites using photographic evidence of infections shared on community science platforms. Here, we used public photo repositories to document the occurrence across space and time of Lucilia spp. (Diptera: Calliphoridae), a parasite inducing nasal toad myiasis in the European toad Bufo bufo (Anura: Bufonidae). We found a total of 262 toad myiasis observations on iNaturalist (n = 132), on GBIF (n = 86), on Flickr (n = 41), and on observation.org (n = 3). Our results indicate that the distribution of toad myiasis is regionally limited, despite its host being widely distributed and abundant across a wide region in Europe. Observations were found in 12 countries with relatively low prevalence, including Belgium (3.90%, CI 2.0.87%, CI 0.12-5.91), and in the UK (0.45%, CI 0.28-0.72). Nevertheless , the number of uploaded observations of both parasite infection and host presence indicates a stable increase likely due to the growing popularity of community science websites. Overall, community science is a useful tool to detect and monitor certain wildlife diseases and to recognize potential changes in disease dynamics through time and space.
The first detection of Fascioloides (F.) magna in northeastern Bavaria in 2011 was presumably correlated to natural migration movements of free ranging wild ruminants originating from the neighboring Czech Republic, where high infection rates have been reported frequently. To gain more data on the continuing spreading and current occurrence of the giant liver fluke in surrounding regions, 700 livers of cloven-hoofed game originating from eleven different northeastern Bavarian counties were investigated for the presence of F. magna and accompanying liver parasites in the hunting season 2019–2020. Macroscopically altered liver tissue was further investigated by pathohistological and parasitological examination. F. magna was detected in 5.9% (38/640) of livers from red deer (0.7% < 1 year, 9.8% > 1 year; p < 0.05) whereas none of the investigated livers of wild boar, roe, and fallow deer was infected (n=60). Mild pathological alterations of the liver tissue were documented in 15, moderate in 14, and major in 9 of all F. magna-positive cases. Histologically, the fluke-specific pigment haematin, large trematode eggs, and periportal fibrosis were detected in the liver tissue of infected animals. In 9% of all investigated livers, parasitic stages of other parasites, i.e., Dicrocoelium dendriticum (6.0%), Fasciola hepatica (0.3%), Taenia spp. (1.7%), and Echinococcus multilocularis (1.0%), were found. According to the results of this study, F. magna is not restricted to formerly known affected regions of Upper Franconia, but is also present in the military training ground Grafenwöhr, Upper Palatinate, and the Bavarian Forest National Park, Lower Bavaria, with estimated prevalences of 3.6 and 16.4%, respectively, and thus seems to spread in suitable habitats in northeastern Bavaria.
Dietary selection is an important process for the maintenance of health homeostasis. From the potential food items available in one's environment, choices must be made to assure a proper balance of nutrients for energy, growth, maintenance, and reproduction. Sometimes, animals select plants also for their medicinal properties. This behaviour constitutes what is called the medicinal diet, and it consists of items with beneficial bioactive properties. In primates and other species investigated so far, it has been found that 15-25% of the plant items consumed have antiparasitic properties. We investigated the dietary habits of three non-overlapping populations of crested porcupine (Hystrix cristata) in Central Italy and identified medicinal food species, their potential antiparasitic benefits, and the seasonality of parasite infections in relation to their ingestion. The three study areas were characterised by contrasting degrees of "natural" and agricultural landscapes. In total, 44 food items were recorded from 43 plant species based on macro-and microscopic faecal analyses (N = 22, 24 spp., respectively) or stomach contents from necropsied roadkill specimens (N = 11 spp.). The dietary variation between groups could be attributed to differences in human land use patterns, affecting the relative accessibility to cultivars and wild growing plants. The relative proportion of plants in the diet with antiparasitic properties varied between study areas 1, 2, and 3, accounting for 72%, 48%, and 27%, respectively. Porcupines were found to be infected by 7 species of ectoparasites (ticks and fleas) and 7 species of endoparasites (strongyle nematode, protozoa, and bacteria) in the cold and rainy months. The consumption of medicinal foods in all three groups coincided with the highest detected prevalence of I. ricinus, P. irritans, P. melis, G. duodenalis, and A. italicus in autumn and winter. This study adds to our general understanding of factors influencing dietary selection and presents the first evidence for a link between medicinal food consumption and parasite infection seasonality in crested porcupines of Europe. Future research is required to ascertain the impact of these parasites on infected hosts, potential modes of action of these medicinal foods on them and the gut microbiota, and host health and nutritional status.
Brown bears (Ursus arctos) usually mate in spring throughout their global range, although a few cases of breeding activity are known in late summer and autumn. In this note, we describe four observations of courtship and copulations of brown bears in the wild in late August and September 2011, 2019, and 2021 in the Cantabrian Mountains (northwestern Spain). These cases extend the published dates on copulations in Europe and the length of the mating season. These couples showed the same behaviour as those recorded in spring. Two females interacted with three different males, but we only saw them copulating with one male. Three of the four courtship cases occurred around a concentrated and seasonal source of food that congregated a large number of bears in restricted areas for a few weeks. We discuss the advantages that these late copulations can have and the uncertainties that still exist about the late reproduction in brown bears.
Assessment of the Finnish wolf population relies on multiple sources of information. This paper describes how Bayesian inference is used to pool the information contained in different data sets (point observations, non-invasive genetics, known mortalities) for the estimation of the number of territories occupied by family packs and pairs. The output of the assessment model is a joint probability distribution, which describes current knowledge about the number of wolves within each territory. The joint distribution can be used to derive probability distributions for the total number of wolves in all territories and for the pack status within each territory. Most of the data set comprises of both voluntary-provided point observations and DNA samples provided by volunteers and research personnel. The new method reduces the role of expert judgement in the assessment process, providing increased transparency and repeatability.
Contact between wild animals and farmed livestock may result in disease transmission with huge financial, welfare and ethical consequences. Conflicts between people and wildlife can also arise when species such as wild boar (Sus scrofa) consume crops or dig up pasture. This is a relatively recent problem in England where wild boar populations have become re-established in the last 20 years following a 500-year absence. The aim of this pilot study was to determine if and how often free-living wild boar visited two commercial pig farms near the Forest of Dean in southwest England. We placed 20 motion-sensitive camera traps at potential entry points to, and trails surrounding, the perimeter of two farmyards housing domestic pigs between August 2019 and February 2021, covering a total of 6030 trap nights. Forty wild boar detections were recorded on one farm spread across 27 nights, with a median (range) of 1 (0 to 7) night of wild boar activity per calendar month. Most of these wild boar detections occurred between ten and twenty metres of housed domestic pigs. No wild boar was detected at the other farm. These results confirm wild boar do visit commercial pig farms, and therefore, there is potential for contact and pathogen exchange between wild boar and domestic pigs. The visitation rates derived from this study could be used to parameterise disease transmission models of pathogens common to domestic pigs and wild boars, such as the African swine fever virus, and subsequently to develop mitigation strategies to reduce unwanted contacts.