Densities, habitat-use, and mesopredator release of the ocelot in Belize
Davis, Miranda Lynn
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The mesopredator release hypothesis suggests that small carnivore populations are negatively affected by competition with larger carnivore species; this could hinder the conservation of mesopredators in areas where large top-carnivores are prioritized. I investigated the ecology of ocelots in Belize and examined the role of mesopredator release in the neotropical carnivore guild to determine if ocelots are limited by competition with jaguars and pumas. I conducted remote camera surveys and sampled habitat within four protected areas: three broadleaf sites and one pine forest site. I measured ocelot activity and habitat-use with respect to the activity of jaguars and pumas at one broadleaf site and one pine forest site; additionally, I calculated estimates of ocelot and jaguar densities within those two sites. Ocelot presence was positively related to jaguar activity in the pine forest and to both jaguar and puma activity in the broadleaf forest. There were few relationships with habitat characteristics; however, in the broadleaf site, ocelot activity was positively related to road width and large avian prey activity. Both jaguar and ocelot densities were low in the pine forest and higher in the broadleaf site. Preliminary findings from the remaining two sites suggest that future results may be similar to those from the first two sites analyzed. I conclude that ocelot populations are not negatively affected by jaguars and that a negative effect of pumas is unlikely. Results imply that mesopredator release does not limit ocelot populations in these areas.
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