Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Examining Predation Risk as a Guide for Mitigating Large Carnivore Attacks on Livestock
by Miller, Jennifer Rose Bunnell, Ph.D., Yale University, 2015, 208; 3663650
Abstract (Summary)

Livestock depredation by large carnivores is one of the greatest causes of human-carnivore conflict worldwide. Mitigating this conflict poses formidable challenges for pastoral communities and conservation practitioners alike. A cost and time-efficient method for reducing livestock loss is to avoid carnivore attacks by grazing livestock in areas where predators are less likely to kill in the first place. The ability to predict attack hotspots requires an understanding of how carnivores and livestock interact spatially to shape the distribution of predation risk across landscapes. In this dissertation, I examine and develop the conceptualization, methods and applications for using carnivore predation risk analysis as a means to formulate and guide human-carnivore conflict mitigation strategies.

The dissertation begins by empirically testing a framework for predicting prey antipredator responses based on predator hunting characteristics. I validated that grasshopper prey mortality, movement and activity levels depend on spider predator hunting mode and habitat domain. The dissertation thereafter examines principles of predation risk from large carnivores to livestock, investigating tiger and leopard attacks on livestock in Kanha Tiger Reserve, central India, as a case study. I measured cattle vigilance in relation to the distance to a tiger cue and established that livestock show heightened antipredator responses near a stalking predator. I then explored the applicability of predation risk models for carnivore-livestock interactions in guiding conflict mitigation strategies. To identify suitable modeling techniques, I examined predation risk modeling methods by comparing the reliability of several modeling approaches (spatially implicit versus spatially explicit) and spatial scales in characterizing predicted levels of landscape-scale predation risk from tigers on livestock. I subsequently used the strongest spatially explicit model to quantify and map predation risk from tigers and leopards, the two main livestock predators in central India. In an effort to compare people's understanding of carnivore threats to the realities of predation risk, I mapped livestock owners' perceptions of tiger and leopard predation risk to model predictions of actual risk and identified areas of mismatch where human-carnivore conflict mitigation efforts might be misdirected. Finally, I reviewed published studies on spatial predation risk modeling and created a conceptual framework for applying predation risk models to guide the implementation of human-carnivore conflict mitigation strategies.

This dissertation critically examines the application of predation risk modeling and mapping as a practical tool for aiding livestock producers, land-use managers and policy decision-makers in focusing conflict mitigation tools on carnivore attack hotspots, where livestock protection efforts may be most efficient. My research contributes to the need for simple innovative approaches that simultaneously strengthen local livelihoods and carnivore conservation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Schmitz, Oswald J.
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-B 76/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Wildlife Conservation, Ecology, Conservation
Keywords: Carnivore conservation, Human-carnivore conflict, Hunting mode, Livestock depredation, Predator effects, Tiger
Publication Number: 3663650
ISBN: 978-1-321-95757-0
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