Can't bear the competition: Energetic losses from kleptoparasitism by a dominant scavenger may alter foraging behaviors of an apex predator

Maximilian L. Allen, L. Mark Elbroch, Heiko U. Wittmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The interspecific interactions of apex predators are integral to the function of ecological communities, but most studies have focused on understanding their top down effects. Kleptoparasitism (the stealing of procured food) by dominant scavengers can have negative effects on populations and behaviors of apex predators. We captured 7 pumas (Puma concolor) and fitted them with GPS collars to investigate potential kill sites (n = 352), some of which we monitored with camera traps (n = 58). We analyzed whether observed kleptoparasitism by American black bears (Ursus americanus) affected puma energetics and foraging behavior. We found that black bears were the most frequent scavenger of puma kills (72.4%), and we documented bears scavenging puma kills during every month. The top model for bear detection of puma kills included prey size, temperature, and canopy cover, with bears more likely to scavenge from adult black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) carcasses in warmer temperatures and under dense canopy cover. When black bear scavenging occurred, pumas spent 22% less time at their kill and incurred energetic losses. In response, pumas shortened their inter-kill intervals by 1.3 days thus increasing their kill rates. Our results demonstrate how a dominant scavenger directly mediates the foraging behavior of an apex predator. These results suggest that community interactions do not necessarily start at the top in top-down systems, and the effects of predators on prey populations can only be understood within their respective ecological communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Volume51
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Predation
  • Puma concolor
  • Ursus americanus
  • kleptoparasitism
  • scavenging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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