Carvalho, W.D., Rosalino, L.M., Godoy, M.S.M, Giorgete, M.F., Adania, C.H. & Esbérard, C.E.L. (2019) Temporal activity of rural free-ranging dogs: implications for the predator and prey species in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest.NeoBiota, 45, 55-74. DOI:10.3897/neobiota.45.30645 (IF2019 2,643; Q1 Biodiversity Conservation)
Domestic or free-ranging dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) can have deleterious effects on wildlife, acting as predators or competitors to native species. These impacts can be highly important in fragmented pristine habitats or well-preserved areas located in human dominated landscapes and where biodiversity values are usually high, such as those in southeastern Brazil. Here we explored the level of overlap or mismatch in the distributions of activity patterns of rural free-ranging dogs and potential wild prey (Didelphis aurita, Cuniculus paca; Sylvilagusbrasiliensis) and a wild predator (Leopardus pardalis) in areas of Atlantic Forest in southeastern Brazil. We further explored the possible influence of the wild predator on the dog presence pattern detected in the territory analyzed. Our camera-trap data (714 camera-trap days) showed that while rural free-ranging dogs display a cathemeral activity pattern, with activity peaks at dusk and dawn, ocelot and prey species are mainly nocturnal. Moreover, we found no evidence of an effect of ocelot presence, the distance to human houses and the presence of native forests on site occupancy by dogs. The ocelot activity patterns in this study were similar to those already reported in previous studies. On the other hand, previous studies have indicated that that free-ranging dogs are often reported to be more diurnal, and it seems that the rural free-ranging dogs in our study area may have adjusted their behaviour to be more active at dawn and dusk periods. This might be to both maintain some overlap with potential prey, e.g. Sylvilagus brasiliensis, and also to avoid ocelots by being less active in periods when this predator is more active (which also coincides with peaks in activity for potential prey species). We hypothesize that the presence of ocelots might be influencing the temporal niche dimension of rural free-ranging dogs. As a sustainable management strategy, we propose conserving territories to promote the presence of medium to large predators in natural areas, in order to control free-ranging dogs and protect their vertebrate prey species.