Date of this Version
J Wildl Manag. 2022;86:e22231.
ock operations through depredation of stock are a cause of human‐wildlife conflict. Management of such conflict requires identifying environmental and non‐environmental factors specific to a wildlife species' biology and ecology that influence the potential for livestock depredation to occur. Identification of such factors can improve understanding of the conditions placing livestock at risk. Black vultures (Coragyps atratus) have expanded their historical range northward into the midwestern United States. Concomitantly, an increase in concern among agricultural producers regarding potential black vulture attacks on livestock has occurred. We estimated area with greater or lesser potential for depredation of domestic cattle by black vultures across a 6‐state region in the midwestern United States using an ensemble of small models (ESM). Specifically, we identified landscape‐scale spatial factors, at a zip code resolution, associated with reported black vulture depredation on cattle in midwestern landscapes to predict future potential livestock depredation. We hypothesized that livestock depredation would be greatest in areas with intensive beef cattle production close to preferred black vulture habitat (e.g., areas with fewer old fields and early successional vegetation paired with more direct edge between older forest and agricultural lands). We predicted that the density of cattle within the county, habitat structure, and proximity to anthropogenic landscape features would be the strongest predictors of black vulture livestock‐depredation risk. Our ESM estimated the relative risk of black vulture‐cattle depredation to be between 0.154–0.631 across our entire study area. Consistent with our hypothesis, areas of greatest predicted risk of depredation correspond with locations that are favorable to vulture life‐history requirements and increased potential to encounter livestock. Our results allow wildlife managers the ability to predict where black vulture depredation of cattle is more likely to occur in the future. It is in these areas where extension and outreach efforts aimed at mitigating this conflict should be focused. Researchers and wildlife managers interested in developing or employing tools aimed at mitigating livestock‐vulture conflicts can also leverage our results to select areas where depredation is most likely to occur.
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