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Am Nat. 2006 Oct;168(4):546-52. Epub 2006 Aug 11.

Selective predation on Utah prairie dogs.

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  • 1Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Frostburg, Maryland 21532, USA.


Predation always affects demography and population dynamics, but removal of certain types of individuals is especially consequential. Predators strike quickly and commonly avoid areas with human observers, however, and thereby make it difficult to document patterns of predation under natural conditions. At a colony of marked Utah prairie dogs (Cynomys parvidens), a high frequency of predation in 2005 provided an unusual opportunity to examine susceptibility of five types of individuals to predation by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis). Juveniles were more vulnerable than adults to predation by northern goshawks. Adults at the edge of the colony were more vulnerable than central adults to predation by both red foxes and northern goshawks. Recent immigrants, who were not yet familiar with the best routes for escape, were more likely than longtime residents to be captured by northern goshawks. Adult males, preoccupied with finding, impregnating, and guarding estrous females during the 17-day mating season, were easy targets for red foxes and northern goshawks. Pregnant females, who could not run quickly, were especially prone to predation by red foxes.

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