Some European wolves have a distinct preference for wild boar over other prey, according to new research.
Scientists from Durham University, UK, in collaboration with the University of Sassari in Italy, found that the diet of wolves was consistently dominated by the consumption of wild boar which accounted for about two thirds of total prey biomass, with roe deer accounting for around a third.
The study analysed the remains of prey items in almost 2000 samples of wolf dung over a nine year period and revealed that an increase in roe deer in the wolf diet only occurred in years when boar densities were very low. In years of high roe deer densities, the wolves still preferred to catch wild boar.
The results are published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The research team related the prey remains in wolf dung to the availability of possible prey in part of Tuscany, Italy - an area recently colonised by wolves. The findings have implications for wildlife conservation as the impact of changing predator numbers on prey species is important for managing populations of both predators and prey.
Lead author, Miranda Davis, from the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham University, said: "Our research demonstrates a consistent selection for wild boar among wolves in the study area, which could affect other prey species such as roe deer."
"Intriguingly, in other parts of Europe where red deer are also available, wolves appear to prefer this prey to wild boar, suggesting that they discriminate between different types of venison."
In Europe, the wolf (Canis lupis) is recovering from centuries of persecution and the expansion of wolf populations has the potential to change the ecology of communities of ungulates (hooved animals) by exposing them to natural predation by wolves, according to the researchers.
The preference for boar is in contrast to other areas of Europe where wol
|Contact: Carl Stiansen|