COVID-19 lockdown splits activity peaks of two mesopredators and potentially relaxes interspecific competition in rural habitat
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Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences
Online publication date: 2022-11-07
Publication date: 2022-11-07
Corresponding author
Anna Wereszczuk   

Mammal Research Institute Polish Academy of Sciences
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2022;33(2):167-172
COVID-19 lockdown has provided a unique example of a sudden and significant reduction of human presence in a rural area, especially in villages with high tourist pressure. We used camera-trapping to investigate the effect of reduction of human activity due to COVID-19 lockdown in a rural area on activity patterns of species considered urban exploiters and urban adapters. The activity patterns of both predators changed slightly and activity peaks shifted without significant differences in temporal niche overlap. The stone marten, an urban exploiter, had a bimodal activity pattern and shifted the main peak of its activity earlier during COVID-19 lockdown. It was quick to respond to the decrease in human presence in the first half of the night by increasing activity in that time. Meanwhile, the red fox, an urban adapter, showed larger variation in activity patterns and shifted summer and autumn-winter activity peaks to later at night or even early morning. These changes resulted in slight differences in the overlap of activity rhythms of both species. Stone marten and red fox have adapted their activity to avoid human encounter and are active mainly at night, responding by a small extent to reduction of human presence during COVID-19 lockdown, which occurs mainly during the day. However, COVID-19 lockdown and lower human mobility may partially reduce interspecific competition induced by anthropogenic activities in rural areas
We would like to thank G. Bujko for his help in the field work. We are grateful to K. Schmidt for sharing part of the data and T. Kamiński for help in organizing data from camera traps. We would also like to thank Białowieża National Park for providing data about the number of tourists who visited the Nature and Forest Museum. Special thanks go to T. Samojlik for creating drawings of the marten and the fox.
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