What does the wolf eat? Assessing the diet of the endangered Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) in northeast Portugal.
The Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) is a top predator that inhabits the Iberian Peninsula. In Portugal, its numbers and distribution declined throughout the 20th century, due to human persecution, habitat degradation and prey decline, which have led to higher predation rates of livestock in the remaining packs. In Montesinho Natural Park (northeast Portugal), wild ungulate populations have been increasing in the last years, which may have led wolf to predate upon them. In order to assess Iberian wolf diet in this area, 85 wolf scats were collected from transects distributed throughout the study area in two periods between November 2017 and August 2019. Scat analysis indicated a high predation on wild ungulates, where the frequency of occurrence showed that roe deer was the most consumed prey (44%), followed by red deer (26%) and wild boar (24%). Domestic/wild cat (6%), domestic goat and stone marten (5%) were consumed in lower quantities. It was found a higher selection towards roe deer (D = 0.71) and this was the only prey item which was significantly dependent of the season of the year (χ2 = 16.95, df = 3, p < 0.001). This is the first study in Portugal where was recorded that wolves feed mainly on wild ungulates. We conclude that lower livestock predation may be correlated with higher wild ungulates densities in our study area, as well as suitable husbandry practices, leading to a shift on Iberian wolf diet from mainly livestock on previous studies to wild ungulates.