Evaluating Population-Level Variation in the Landscape of Fear

Project Abstract

Predator-prey interactions drive decisions of either counterpart, meaning predators and the presence of perceived dangers, such as predator scent markings or calls, are capable of altering an organism’s behavior. Simultaneously, the presence of a prey influences the behavior of its predator. On a spatial scale, risk and cost-benefit tradeoffs related to predation pressures create a landscape of fear (LOF), where prey avoid areas they associate with risk. Research suggests that captive and/or historically captive animals tend to respond slower or less effectively to predation than wild populations that regularly experience threats of predation. I propose to study several elk herds composed of varying levels of captive history, including those that are currently captive, have been captive in the past five years, past twenty years, wild/not recently reintroduced, and native. I will gather baseline antipredator behavioral data of each herd and assess their response to faux predator cues (wolf vocalizations). I will employ predator cues in select treatment areas over one field season in order to manipulate the herd’s LOF, then compare herd distributions (pre- vs. post-experiment) and behavioral responses. I expect that elk will respond appropriately to faux cues and alter the LOF appropriately, avoiding treatment sites during the duration of the experiment. For my second season of field work, where I plan to expand study sites to encompass several herds, I suspect wild and native herds will respond more quickly to predator cues and adapt to the LOF faster than those with more recent captive histories, as current research suggests. Successful manipulation of herd LOF may allow elk management with similar methods, providing conservation benefits to current and future restorations of elk and other extirpated species.



Funding Type

Research Grant

Academic College

Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology








Dr. Howard Whiteman

Academic College

Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology

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