An illuminating new study shows that some of America’s big predators, like wolves and mountain lions, now get half of their diet from humanity.
There’s no doubting the fact that humans have completely changed the natural world. For other top predators like ourselves, this manifests in a huge shift from natural predatory behavior – to opportunistic scavenging.
According to a fascinating piece from WIRED Magazine, wildlife biologists how have hard evidence to support this.
Whether it be foxes, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, and even wolves – DNA doesn’t lie. WIRED cites the study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They, alongside colleagues at the University of New Mexico, are using hair, fur, and bone samples to identify predators’ diets through DNA markers. And their findings are alarming.
Their study shows that American predators “are now getting nearly half their food from people. It’s a big shift away from eating foods found in nature,” WIRED cites. As a result, this could lead predators to “more human-carnivore encounters”.
Such encounters are drastically on the rise, too. One, where a man was able to film the entire six minutes he was stalked by a mountain lion, is hard to watch. Bear encounters and fatalities in 2020 are all far past any previous records, as well.
American predators are now half-fed from shocking sources
Perhaps the most startling finding is what these predators are eating. By using chemical tracers, the scientists found that trash bins, field produce, and the rodents that frequent both are a massive part of predatory diets now. The most shocking marker to show up? Domestic pets.
“These species are eating human food and pets,” states Philip Manlick. Manlick is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of New Mexico. He’s also the lead author of the study.
“In some cases, up to half of their diets are coming from humans. It might be garbage, or corn residue, or house cats and pets,” Manlick adds. “This is bad news for carnivores, because people don’t want predators eating their pets. And, generally speaking, people don’t like carnivores in their backyard.”
It’s not just humans and their pets this puts at risk, however. In addition, Manlick says these new food sources are pitting predators directly against one another.
“They will use their weapons against each other as well,” Manlick clarifies. “As their diets begin to overlap, they are more likely to kill each other. The consumption of food resources presents a lot of challenges for carnivores in the future.”
The most likely animal to eat from human sources, according to the study? Foxes. Manlick’s team finds that a typical fox gets a solid 50% of its food by eating domesticated animals.
As a result, any outdoor pets should be in a secure area for the night. Otherwise, Manlick warns, they’ll end up food.