How important is individual foraging specialisation in invasive predators for native-prey population viability?
Predation by invasive species is a major threat to the persistence of naïve prey. Typically, this negative effect is addressed by suppressing the population size of the invasive predator to a point where the predation pressure does not hinder the viability of the prey. However, this type of intervention may not be effective whenever a few specialised predators are the cause of the decline. We investigated the effects of varying levels of specialised invasive stoats (Mustela erminea) abundance on the long-term viability of simulated kiwi (Apteryx spp.) populations. We explored four scenarios with different proportions of highly specialised stoats, which were those that had a ≥ 0.75 probability of predating kiwi eggs and chicks if they were within their home range: (i) a stoat population composed mostly of generalists (mean: 0.5 probability of predation across the population); (ii) 5% of highly specialised stoats and the remaining being generalists; (iii) 10% of highly specialised stoats and the remaining being generalists; and, (iv) half highly specialised stoats and half generalists. We found that stoat home range sizes, rather than stoat density or the density of highly specialised stoats, was the main driver of kiwi population trends. Stoats with large home ranges were more likely to predate kiwi eggs and chicks as these were more likely to fall within a large home range. More broadly, our findings show how the daily individual ranging and foraging behaviour of an invasive predator can scale-up to shape population trends of naïve prey.