Behavioral responses of wild rodents to owl calls in an austral temperate forest.
Ecologically based rodent management strategies are arising as a sustainable approach to rodent control, allowing us to preserve biodiversity while safeguarding human economic activities. Despite predator signals being known to generally repel rodents, few field-based studies have compared the behavioral effects of several predators on different prey species, especially in Neotropical ecosystems. Here, we used camera traps to study the behavior of rodent species native to the Chilean temperate forest (Abrothrix spp., long-tailed pygmy rice rat Oligoryzomys longicaudatus) and an introduced rodent (black rat Rattus rattus). Using playbacks of raptor calls, we experimentally exposed rodents to three predation risk treatments: austral pygmy owl calls (Glaucidium nana), rufous-legged owl calls (Strix rufipes) and a control treatment (absence of owl calls). We evaluated the effects of the treatments on the time allocated to three behaviors: feeding time, locomotor activity and vigilance. Moonlight and vegetation cover were also considered in the analyses, as they can modify perceived predation risk. Results showed that predator calls and environmental factors modified prey behavior depending not only on the predator species, but also on the rodent species. Consequently, owl playbacks could be regarded as a promising rodent control tool, knowing that future studies would be critical to deeply understand differences between species in order to select the most effective predator cues.