Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Foraging decisions of North American beaver (Castor canadensis) are shaped by energy constraints and predation risk (#253)

Janne Sundell 1 , Julien Salandre 2 , Rahel Beil 3 , John Loehr 1
  1. University of Helsinki, Lammi, Hämeenlinna, Finland
  2. Jean Monnet University, Saint Etienne, France
  3. University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan-Triesdorf, Freising, Germany

Foraging herbivores have to trade-off between energy requirements and predator avoidance. We aimed to study the relative roles of these factors in beavers (Castor canadensis) when foraging on land. We hypothesized that beavers were able to assess the risk of predation by using two main cues, the distance from water, and the presence or absence of predator odors. First, we studied the food selection of beavers in relation to distance from the water in natural settings. Transects were made at beaver ponds and the diameter, species, and distance from the shore of intact and beaver cut trees were recorded. Secondly, we placed rows of aspen sticks (Populus tremula) perpendicular to the shore around beaver ponds, and treated each row with a neutral, alien, or wolf odor. We found that aspen, downy birch (Betula pubescens) and speckled alder (Alnus incana) were preferred tree species. More of these species were cut close to the shore and cut trees were smaller further away from the shore, except in the case of aspen. In the experiment, most of the aspen sticks were taken close to the shore. As predicted, beavers took less aspen sticks in rows treated with wolf odor than water. As the predator odor did not affect the foraging distance from the shore, it is likely that our observation that foraging was the most intense close to shore, is due to energetic constraints. However, predation risk probably affects the decision whether to forage on the land in the first place.