Risk induced by a native top predator reduces alien mink movements


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  • 1Nonlethal predation effects may have stronger impacts on prey populations than direct predation impacts, and this should also apply to intraguild predation. The consequences of such interactions become especially important if invasive, and potentially destructive alien predators act as intraguild prey.
  • 2We studied the predation-risk impacts of a re-colonizing native top predator, Haliaeetus albicilla (white-tailed sea eagle), on the movements of Mustela vison (American mink), an alien predator in Europe. We radiocollared 20 mink in two study areas in the outer archipelago of the Baltic Sea, South-west Finland, during 2004 and 2005. In the archipelago, mink home ranges incorporate many islands, and mink are most predisposed to eagle predation while swimming between islands. Observed swimming distances of mink were compared to distances expected at random, and deviations from random swimming were explained by mink distance from nearest eagle nest, number of eagle observations near mink location, and mink home-range size.
  • 3Mink reduced their swimming distances with increasing sea eagle predation risk: for females, the reduction was 10% for an increase of 10 eagle observations, and 5% for each kilometre towards an eagle nest. Conclusions for males were restricted by their small sample size.
  • 4Our results suggest that female mink modify their behaviour according to eagle predation risk, which may reduce their population growth and have long-term cascading effects on lower trophic levels including bird, mammal and amphibian populations in the archipelago. Ecosystem restoration by bringing back the top predators may be one way of mitigating alien predator effects on native biota.