Predator-prey interactions in the Western Alps

It can take a long time to find a chamois to observe… For my Master of Science Thesis, I designed and performed a study of the predator-prey interactions between wolves and chamois in the Maritime Alps Natural Park (Italy). Wolves returned naturally to the Western Alps over a ~30-year period, 1970-1999 finding a completely naïve ungulate community. My project investigated how these herbivores coped with the newly re-established predation risk. I used a combination of behavioral observations in the field and scat analysis in the lab to collect data on the ethology of chamois and the diet composition of wolves, respectively. I inferred diet of wolves from undigested remains (hair, bones) found in scats. To maintain inter-observer consistency, I undertook and passed a blind test on 100 unknown mammal hair with a 1% error chance. As part of this project, I also prepared scat samples for genetic analyses, engaged in wolf-howling.

My thesis is available here (Italian only). More information on the return of the wolf to the Alps can be found here and here (English version).