Spatial variability in wolf diet and prey selection in Galicia (NW Spain)
Received: 23 May 2017 /Accepted: 17 January 2018 /Published online: 5 February 2018
Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2018
We studied wolf (Canis lupus) diet for three different landscapes in the north-western Iberian Peninsula, differing in land uses and
availability of food for wolves. We examined 2740 scats, collected over a period of 4 years, in order to describe wolf diet, its
geographic variation, and trophic preferences. The most consumed species were wild pony, roe deer and cattle. We observed
differences in wolf diet among the three study sites, related to the availability and accessibility of food resources in each habitat.
For the two study sites in northern and central Galicia, wolves showed similar diet, with high occurrence of wild pony (37 vs. 34%)
and cattle (20 vs. 23%), but differing in the consumption of wild ungulates (16 vs. 8%) and carrion (7 vs. 14%). Wolf diet in eastern
Galicia’s mountain ranges was entirely different, due to the higher consumption of wild ungulates (70%). Wolves showed clear prey
selection patterns. Between wild ponies and livestock, wolves positively selected ponies. Among wild ungulates, wolves positively
selected roe deer. Wild pony and roe deer are key species for wolf feeding in Galicia. In the Galician wild pony range, ponies are the
main food for wolves. Given that the availability of wild ponies may contribute to the decrease in wolf predation on cattle, it is
essential to develop innovative administrative decisions in such areas to preserve this traditional equid population. In the same way,
the population of roe deer should be strengthened in the livestock areas outside the range of wild pony.
Keywords Canis lupus
Galician wild ponies
Predation on livestock
In Europe, large carnivores such as wolves (Canis lupus) coex-
ist with human populations (Chapron et al. 2014). In this con-
text, wolf damage to livestock, as well as wolf depredations on
game species, is a constant source of conflict (Graham et al.
2005; Kaczensky 1999; Sillero-Zubiri and Laurenson 2001).
The wolf is present today even in highly humanised landscapes
across the continent (Linnell et al. 2001). In such areas, conflicts
generated by wolves may intensify when wild prey is scarce,
due to an increase in the frequency of attacks on livestock
(Meriggi et al. 1996; Sidorovich et al. 2003). Conservation of
large carnivores in this scenario is challenging and requires
precise knowledge of their ecology. An example of this situa-
tion can be found in the region of Galicia, in north-western
Spain, where wolves live in human-dominated landscapes
(Llaneza et al. 2012) and specially in habitats where livestock
is a major economic activity.
The food habits of wolves are variable across the distribu-
tion area of the species (Newsome et al. 2016;Petersonand
Ciucci 2003). However, wolves consume mostly large and
medium-sized ungulates in most of their distribution area
(Newsome et al. 2016). Wolf diet consists mainly of wild
ungulates in North America (Arjo et al. 2002; Ballard et al.
1987;Mech1966; Potvin et al. 1988; Scott and Shackleton
1980), in the east and centre of Europe (Ansorge et al. 2006;
Jędrzejewski et al. 2000; Nowak et al. 2005; Sidorovich et al.
2003; Śmietana and Klimek 1993), in some areas of Italy
(Capitani et al. 2004; Gazzola et al. 2005; Mattioli et al.
1995; Mattioli et al. 2004; Meriggi et al. 1996; Pezzo et al.
2003), in the centre and east of Finland (Gade-Jørgensen and
Stagegaard 2000), and in some areas of the Iberian Peninsula
(Cuesta et al. 1991; Llaneza et al. 1996). In other areas of
Europe, wolves feed mainly on livestock, as in some areas
of the Iberian Peninsula (Cuesta et al. 1991;Torresetal.
2015;Vos2000); in Greece (Migli et al. 2005); in the centre
of the Apennines, in the north of Italy (Meriggi et al. 1996);
in the northeast of Belarus, when wild prey become scarce
(Sidorovich et al. 2003). Variability in the diet can be
Communicated by: Krzysztof Schmidt
* Laura Lagos
Nutritional Research and Analysis Institute, University of Santiago
de Compostela, c/ Constantino Candeira s/n, 15782 Santiago de
Mammal Research (2018) 63:125–139