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Sex-specific foraging of an apex predator puts females at risk of human-wildlife conflict

Citation

Schultz, Hendrik et al. (2021), Sex-specific foraging of an apex predator puts females at risk of human-wildlife conflict, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.cc2fqz65t

Abstract

Urbanisation and anthropogenic alteration of ecosystems has led to conflict between humans and wildlife. Such conflict is often observed in apex predators. Although human-wildlife conflict has been extensively studied, male/female differences in behaviour are rarely considered.

We investigated male/female differences in foraging behaviour of the predatory/scavenging brown skua Catharacta antarctica lonnbergi breeding on a New Zealand island nature reserve in proximity to farmland. These skuas are subject to culling, when perceived as a threat to livestock.

As part of a long-term ecological study, we used high-resolution Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to characterise the space-use of foraging brown skuas. We also analysed stable isotopes of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) from modern and archived blood samples to investigate possible changes in diet over the past ~30 years.

Analysis of 100 GPS tracks collected from 2014-16 demonstrated that males and females consistently visited different habitats. Males spent most of their time close to their breeding territory on the island nature reserve and females frequently visited a farmed island approximately two kilometres away. Consistent with this finding, we show that male and female skuas also differed markedly in their diets: males specialised on burrow-nesting white-faced storm petrels Pelagodroma marina (80%) with only a small proportion of sheep remains Ovis aries (<6%) contributing to their diet. In contrast, female diet comprised 27% white-faced storm petrels, other seabirds (18%), and a relatively large proportion of sheep remains (47%). Further, our data (186 blood samples from 122 individuals) show that this male / female difference in diet has persisted at least since 1987.

Because females fed disproportionally on sheep remains, they may be more vulnerable to being culled by farmers. Importantly, our case study suggests that intersexual differences in diet and foraging patterns can have major implications for the reproduction and survival of apex predators that interact with farming. We strongly suggest that intersexual differences in behaviour should be considered when investigating human-wildlife conflicts. 

Methods

See published article.

Usage Notes

Readme files – there are three archived datasets associated with this publication.

01. Skua blood stable isotope data

The first file contains stable isotope data (d13C and d15N) from whole blood of brown skuas (Catharacta antarctica lonnbergi) breeding on the Chatham Islands (filename '01. Skua blood isotopes Schultz et al | J Anim Ecol.xlsx'). The file contains the following information / columns:

SampleID

Unique identifier for each blood sample

Species

Species identifier (here brown skua)

Tissue

Type of tissue analysed (here blood only)

BirdID

Unique identifier for each bird

Sex

Gender information

Year

Sampling year

Origin

Indicates whether samples are modern (2014-16) or archived (1987-1993)

d15N

Stable nitrogen isotope values

d13C

Stable carbon isotope values

d13CadjSuess

Stable carbon isotope values adjusted for the Suess effect

 

02. Prey muscle isotope data

A second dataset includes stable isotope values (d13C and d15N) from muscle tissue of respective prey species (filename '02. Prey isotopes Schultz et al | J Anim Ecol.xlsx'). The file contains the following information / columns:

SampleID

Unique identifier for each blood sample

Species

Species identifier

Atomic.wt.C.N.ratio

Atomic C:N ratio

Mass.C.N.ratio

Mass C:N ratio

d13C

Stable carbon isotope values

lipid.corrected.d13C

Stable carbon isotope values, mathematically corrected for lipid content

d15N

Stable nitrogen isotope values

Concdepd13C

Concentration dependence for stable carbon

Concdepd15N

Concentration dependence for stable nitrogen

 

03. Skua GPS tracking data

A third file includes GPS tracking data of brown skua collected during the study period (2014-16) (filename '03. Skua GPS Schultz et al | J Anim Ecol.xlsx'). The file contains the following information / columns:

BirdID

Unique identifier for each bird

Sex

Gender information

NestID

Unique identifier for each nest site

NestDistanceHarv

Great Circle Distance from each respective location to the nest site

Year

Sampling year

Latitude

Latitude in World Geodetic System (WGS84) format

Longitude

Longitude in WGS 1984 format in World Geodetic System (WGS84) format

POINTX_CITM

Longitude in Chatham Islands Transverse Mercator projection

POINTY_CITM

Latitude in Chatham Islands Transverse Mercator projection

TripID

Unique identifier for each trip (i.e. series of consecutive locations outside a radius of 100m around the nest site)

Funding

New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarship, Award: N/A

Birds New Zealand Research Fund, Award: N/A

James Sharon Watson Conservation Trust, Award: N/A

The University of Auckland, Award: N/A

New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarship

Birds New Zealand Research Fund

James Sharon Watson Conservation Trust