Mobility of a small mammalian predator changes according to the activity patterns of potential intraguild predators

Tengmalm's owl in the experimental exclosure

We tested in experimental enclosures the behaviour of small mammalian predators, least weasels, in the presence of two potential avian intraguild predators with different daily activity rhythms. Un-expectedly, weasels seemed to schedule their mobility according to the peak activity of the avian predator present. In the presence of diurnal European kestrels, weasels moved less during night compared with evening and day, whereas in the presence of nocturnal Tengmalm's owls, weasels moved more during night than during other time periods.
We also checked the habitat use of all the species by creating two separate habitat types to the enclosures: a short grass habitat and a tall grass habitat. Weasels almost exclusively used the tall grass habitat in all treatments, whereas owls used the short grass habitat most and kestrels used both habitats equally.
Weasels might benefit by the hunting of the avian predators chasing the common prey, voles, from short grass to the tall grass. By avoiding the risky habitat weasels minimize the risk of being killed by the avian predators while still taking an advantage of their hunting effort.

Article published in Journal of Zoology

29.10.2015: Elina Koivisto