Understanding predator hunting behavior and strategies is key to protecting vulnerable native species.
To catch a thief, the saying goes, you have to think like a thief. The same is true for invasive predators: to foil their depredations on native wildlife, scientists have to understand how they think.
A new study published in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecological Applications examines how invasive mammalian predators both habituate to and generalize avian prey cues. Dr. Price and her team at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research studied the behavior of ferrets and hedgehogs—invasive mammals in New Zealand—in an outdoor enclosure experiment to understand how they hunt avian prey. The discovery could have conservation applications for protecting native bird species.
Previous research has established that “chemical camouflage” could be an effective way to deter invasive species from harming vulnerable bird populations: scientists can distribute appealing bird odors near nests before eggs appear, so that the predator eventually starts ignoring the smell—even after tasty eggs become available.
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