“Passive surveillance” across species with cross-amplifying molecular markers: the potential of wolf (Canis lupus) genetic monitoring in tracking golden jackal (C. aureus) colonization and hybridization
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University of Ljubljana
Slovenia Forest Service
Astrid Vik Stronen   

University of Ljubljana
Online publication date: 2020-03-09
Publication date: 2020-03-09
From their historic ranges in southeastern Europe, the golden jackal (Canis aureus) distribution is expanding westward and northward, with range enlargement from Balkan and Caucasus source populations. Jackals can hybridize with dogs (C. lupus familiaris) and potentially also wolves (C. lupus), which is a conservation concern. Despite the emerging need for genetic monitoring of jackal expansion, such programs are nevertheless lacking. As microsatellite markers used for wolf monitoring cross-amplify across canids, we suggest exploiting profiles from wolf population monitoring schemes, where jackals can be detected as non-target species. Such “passive surveillance” can support rapid species identification and advance our understanding of jackal range expansion. We present an example from Slovenia and recommend inclusion of this cost-effective screening option as a standard procedure wherever jackal expansion is occurring or anticipated in the near future. This expansion can increase conflicts with humans and cause negative attitudes among certain interest groups, although preliminary results from Slovenia suggest hunters become accustomed to the presence of jackals and agree the species should be managed sustainably. As monitoring data are now routinely used to investigate the possible presence of wolf-dog hybrids, jackals can be included in such assessments with minor additional efforts, allowing more timely management responses and targeted public outreach.