Mikael Cejtin, MESc

2014 TRI Fellow in Argentina

Evaluating puma predation risk in the high Andes of Argentina

The global decline of large carnivores makes efforts to understand their role in ecosystems vital. In addition to killing and consuming prey, large carnivores influence ecosystems by changing the behavior of their prey. Known as 'non-consumptive effects', these anti-predator behaviors are sometimes strong enough to affect prey nutrition and reproduction. Little research has been done on non-consumptive effects at the scale of large mammals apart from a few studies in the canid-dominated system of Yellowstone, yet theory suggests that ambush-hunting felids are more likely to produce strong non-consumptive effects.

I am examining the influence of puma predation risk on vicuña (native South American camelids) in San Guillermo National Park, Argentina. The park is one of the last places where the ecological effects of large felids can be studied relatively free of human influence, presenting a rare opportunity to establish an ecological reference for threatened Andean ecosystems. My objectives are to 1) create a detailed model of puma predation risk and 2) evaluate potential puma non-consumptive effects on vicuña nutrition.