Increased Flight Initiation Distance (FID) in Golden Marmots (Marmota caudata aurea) Responding to Domestic Dogs in A Landscape of Human Disturbance
Feline Research Center of Chinese State Forestry and Grassland Administration, College of Wildlife and Protected Areas, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin 150040, China
Ecology, Conservation and Zoonosis Research and Enterprise Group, University of Brighton, Brighton BN2 4GJ, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Received: 3 July 2019 / Revised: 20 August 2019 / Accepted: 23 August 2019 / Published: 26 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Wildlife
Humans and domestic dogs may alarm wild animals, and the extent of this can be measured using Flight Initiation Distance (FID). Golden marmots are preyed on by globally-endangered predators such as the snow leopard, and are baited by humans with dogs, potentially causing FID to increase. We measured FID in 72 marmots from four colonies in the Karakoram range, Pakistan. Marmots were approached by a person on foot with a leashed dog, and by a person on their own to compare FID between the two. Additionally, we recorded background signs of human activity, namely roads, and presence of people other than the experimenters. We measured other aspects of the environment that might have affected marmot behavior such as marmot group size and age/sex, how visible each colony was, and colony substrate. The dog caused greater FID than the person alone, and adult marmots nearer to roads showed greater FID. However, marmot age and colony substrate had more marked impacts on FID, which was also greater at lower elevations where there were clusters of human settlements and livestock pasture. Further research should be conducted to explore some of these effects further and to find out whether increased FID affects marmot survival and breeding success.