U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Food Webs 13 (2017), pp. 49–50.


U.S. government work.


1. Response to Bruskotter and colleagues

We recently described the following six interrelated issues that justify questioning some of the discourse about the reliability of the literature on the ecological roles of large carnivores (Allen et al., in press):

1. The overall paucity of available data,

2. The reliability of carnivore population sampling techniques,

3. The general disregard for alternative hypotheses to top-down forcing,

4. The lack of applied science studies,

5. The frequent use of logical fallacies,

6. The generalisation of results from relatively pristine systems to those substantially altered by humans.

We thank Bruskotter et al. (2017) for responding to our concerns and engaging with this important issue. We agree completely that nonexperimental studies can and do often have great value, and we recognize that in many (most) cases these types of studies may provide the only data that are available. We acknowledge the many challenges of working on large, cryptic, dangerous, and highly-mobile animals in the wild. However, the absence of more robust data and the reality of these challenges do not excuse weak inference or overstating conclusions – a practice apparent in many studies (and communication of those studies) adopting only observational or correlative methods to infer the roles of large carnivores (reviewed in Allen et al., in press).

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