Ecological Impact of Feral Animals

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Ecology and Conservation".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2024 | Viewed by 7873

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Electronics, Math, and Natural Sciences, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, University of Gävle, 80176 Gävle, Sweden
Interests: ecological effects; wildlife; conservation biology; behavioral ecology; ornithology; camera-trapping; fisheries

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Guest Editor
Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC), CSIC-UCLM-JCCLM, Ronda de Toledo 12, 13005 Ciudad Real, Spain
Interests: wildlife biology; conservation biology; game biology; re-wilding; animal population management

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Feral animals are animals descended from domesticated animals but living in the wild. For example, dogs, goats, cats, parrots, and pigs living in the wild are considered feral animals. The distribution and abundance of feral populations of any of these species, how they interact with other species in wildlife communities, and the factors that limit their survival and proliferation, are all challenging tasks that require further research. One of the most significant reasons why we must acquire more knowledge on feral animals is their potential to be vectors for spreading diseases between wild populations and domestic populations, as is the case between the wild boar and the domestic pig.

The number of factors that could either limit the distribution and/or abundance or proliferate the spread and increase the abundance of feral animals could be numerous, and these factors can be of both biotic and abiotic origins. Additionally, as these are domesticated animals, we must also consider human behavior, which could act in concert with both biotic and abiotic factors, increasing their impact on the environment.

The focus of this Special Issue is to understand the ecological impact of feral animals on other species living in the same environment or in their own ecosystems. One of the questions is whether feral species can disrupt the natural populations of other species, but many different questions need to be addressed in the study of their ecological impact.

The scope of this Special Issue covers all different species of feral animals and all kinds of ecological impacts that they may have on the environment.

The purpose of this Special Issue, entitled “Ecological Impact of Feral Animals”, is to enlighten and strengthen research on this topic, which is becoming a necessity with the increase in the populations of feral animals in both rural and urban areas.

This Special Issue will supplement and contribute to the existing literature on feral animals, as it will draw increasing attention to the ecological impact on other species that share their environment with an ever increasing abundance and distribution of feral animals across the world.

Dr. Lars Hillström
Dr. Antonio Carpio
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • feral animal
  • domestic animals
  • ecological impact
  • biodiversity
  • conservation biology
  • wildlife biology

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

11 pages, 821 KiB  
Article
Evaluating Different Factors That Affect the Nesting Patterns of European and Algerian Hedgehogs in Urban and Suburban Environments
by Héctor Gago, Robby M. Drechsler and Juan S. Monrós
Animals 2023, 13(24), 3775; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13243775 - 7 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1202
Abstract
Small undisturbed patches in urban environments serve as important refuges for wildlife, e.g., hedgehogs. However, the effects of urbanization on certain biological aspects, like nesting behavior, remain unknown. We captured and tracked the movement of 30 male hedgehogs of two co-existing species: Algerian [...] Read more.
Small undisturbed patches in urban environments serve as important refuges for wildlife, e.g., hedgehogs. However, the effects of urbanization on certain biological aspects, like nesting behavior, remain unknown. We captured and tracked the movement of 30 male hedgehogs of two co-existing species: Algerian and European hedgehogs. The study was carried out in Valencia (eastern Spain). We distinguished six macrohabitats and five subhabitats. We analyzed the proportions of the macro and subhabitats where nests were found to calculate a resource selection function and fit GLMs. Hedgehog nests tended to concentrate in areas with little human disturbance and were built in hedges or under bush-like vegetation. We did not find any significant differences between species or other considered groups. We noted that nests were distributed around hard-to-find suitable habitat patches. We even recorded a case of two males from both species simultaneously using one nest. Our results suggest that hedgehog conservation in urban environments can be improved by the correct management of forest patches by conserving bush-like vegetation and improving the connectivity between suitable patches with ecological corridors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecological Impact of Feral Animals)
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9 pages, 1051 KiB  
Communication
Feral Donkey Distribution and Ecological Impacts in a Hyper-Arid Region
by Alaaeldin Soultan, Mohammed Darwish, Nawaf Al-Johani, Ayman Abdulkareem, Yousef Alfaifi, Abdulaziz M. Assaeed, Magdy El-Bana and Stephen Browne
Animals 2023, 13(18), 2885; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13182885 - 11 Sep 2023
Viewed by 1855
Abstract
The feral donkey (Equus asinus L.) is an invasive species in Saudi Arabia and can cause severe damage to natural and cultural heritage. Over the last 30 years, feral donkeys have become a serious problem, as their abundance and geographic distribution has [...] Read more.
The feral donkey (Equus asinus L.) is an invasive species in Saudi Arabia and can cause severe damage to natural and cultural heritage. Over the last 30 years, feral donkeys have become a serious problem, as their abundance and geographic distribution has increased drastically. The impacts of feral donkeys are not well documented, and information about their abundance and distribution is lacking, certainly in Saudi Arabia, which hampers the implementation of effective management plans. Accordingly, we used the minimum population number approach (MPN) to determine the number of feral donkeys in this part of northwest Saudi Arabia. A total of 1135 feral donkeys were encountered in the region. The area around Khaybar harbors ~25% (n = 338) of the feral donkey population, whereas Tayma and AlGhrameel nature reserves were the least-inhabited sites (almost absent). The average population density of feral donkeys was estimated as 1.03 (0.19 SE) donkey/km2. We documented the negative ecological impact of feral donkeys on natural resources, which constituted overgrazing that resulted in habitat fragmentation and competition for resources with native species. We propose urgent actions to control the presence of feral donkeys in the region and suggest humane eradication as the most efficient and applicable to significantly reduce the negative impacts of feral donkeys. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecological Impact of Feral Animals)
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12 pages, 2918 KiB  
Article
Are Tourists Facilitators of the Movement of Free-Ranging Dogs?
by Elke Schüttler and Jaime E. Jiménez
Animals 2022, 12(24), 3564; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12243564 - 16 Dec 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1973
Abstract
Dogs are the most abundant carnivores on earth and, as such, negatively impact wildlife. Free-ranging dogs roam in many protected areas, which in turn are often tourist destinations. Whether tourists influence their roaming is largely unexplored but highly relevant to wildlife conservation. To [...] Read more.
Dogs are the most abundant carnivores on earth and, as such, negatively impact wildlife. Free-ranging dogs roam in many protected areas, which in turn are often tourist destinations. Whether tourists influence their roaming is largely unexplored but highly relevant to wildlife conservation. To address this question, we obtained (i) 81 completed questionnaires from tourists on their experience with free-ranging dogs in the remote Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, Chile, and (ii) photographs of three camera-traps placed next to trekking trails (n = 87 trap days). A third of the participants were followed by dogs for up to four days, and 39% saw free-ranging dogs on their hikes, but neither feeding dogs nor fear of them had any influence on whether tourists were followed by dogs. Camera-traps yielded 53 independent dog sequences, recorded 32 individuals plus 14 unidentified dogs, of which only one was leashed, with a frequency of one dog every 28th person. In 17% of 53 sequences, dogs were photographed together with hikers carrying large backpacks for several-day trips. We conclude that tourists are facilitators for the movement of dogs and highlight the importance of the engagement of the tourism sector in wildlife conservation in and close to protected areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecological Impact of Feral Animals)
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13 pages, 1826 KiB  
Article
Wild Boar Effects on Fungal Abundance and Guilds from Sporocarp Sampling in a Boreal Forest Ecosystem
by Antonio J. Carpio, Marta García, Lars Hillström, Mikael Lönn, Joao Carvalho, Pelayo Acevedo and C. Guillermo Bueno
Animals 2022, 12(19), 2521; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12192521 - 21 Sep 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2018
Abstract
Native wild boar (Sus scrofa) populations are expanding across Europe. This is cause for concern in some areas where overabundant populations impact natural ecosystems and adjacent agronomic systems. To better manage the potential for impacts, managers require more information about how [...] Read more.
Native wild boar (Sus scrofa) populations are expanding across Europe. This is cause for concern in some areas where overabundant populations impact natural ecosystems and adjacent agronomic systems. To better manage the potential for impacts, managers require more information about how the species may affect other organisms. For example, information regarding the effect of wild boar on soil fungi for management application is lacking. Soil fungi play a fundamental role in ecosystems, driving essential ecological functions; acting as mycorrhizal symbionts, sustaining plant nutrition and providing defense; as saprotrophs, regulating the organic matter decomposition; or as plant pathogens, regulating plant fitness and survival. During autumn (Sep–Nov) 2018, we investigated the effects of wild boar (presence/absence and rooting intensity) on the abundance (number of individuals) of fungal sporocarps and their functional guilds (symbiotic, saprotrophic and pathogenic). We selected eleven forested sites (400–500 × 150–200 m) in central Sweden; six with and five without the presence of wild boar. Within each forest, we selected one transect (200 m long), and five plots (2 × 2 m each) for sites without wild boar, and ten plots for sites with boars (five within and five outside wild boar disturbances), to determine the relationship between the intensity of rooting and the abundance of sporocarps for three fungal guilds. We found that the presence of wild boar and rooting intensity were associated with the abundance of sporocarps. Interestingly, this relationship varied depending on the fungal guild analyzed, where wild boar rooting had a positive correlation with saprophytic sporocarps and a negative correlation with symbiotic sporocarps. Pathogenic fungi, in turn, were more abundant in undisturbed plots (no rooting) but located in areas with the presence of wild boar. Our results indicate that wild boar activities can potentially regulate the abundance of fungal sporocarps, with different impacts on fungal guilds. Therefore, wild boar can affect many essential ecosystem functions driven by soil fungi in boreal forests, such as positive effects on energy rotation and in creating mineral availability to plants, which could lead to increased diversity of plants in boreal forests. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecological Impact of Feral Animals)
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