Increased hormonal stress response of Apennine chamois induced by interspecific interactions and anthropogenic disturbance
Responses of animals to environmental changes and their interactions with other species play an important role in conservation. Sharing a common habitat may lead to interspecific competition for resources, but field assessment of these biological events is not always easily accomplished. By using a non-invasive method, we evaluated the physiological stress responses of Apennine chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata) to the presence of cattle, sheep and goat, red deer (Cervus elaphus), people (hikers), and predators to identify which factors may affect this endangered species. During September 2012, November 2012, and July 2013, a total of 318 faecal samples were collected in representative sites and analysed for faecal cortisol metabolites (FCM). FCM concentration was analysed through linear mixed-effect models. A significant increase in FCM values in Apennine chamois sharing their habitat with domestic animals was recorded during all study periods. On the contrary, stress responses to red deer and people were limited in time and emerged only during summer months, when hikers are more frequent and red deer extend their altitudinal range reaching chamois’ habitat. The observed effects of domestic animals, red deer, and hikers should be considered in future Apennine chamois management plans, which should include the regulation of pastured domestic livestock, anthropogenic disturbances, and possible interferences with other wild species within parks.
KeywordsCompetition Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata Cervus elaphus Domestic ruminants Human activities Glucocorticoids
The authors are grateful to Sarah Perkins and Claudia Romeo for their contribution during editing and to anonymous reviewers and EJWR’ editors who greatly helped us to improve the manuscript through their constructive comments. We thank Loredana Bisegna for her suggestions in the text-editing process.
This research was supported by the ‘Project LIFE09 NAT/IT/000183 Coornata’ and partly by the Italian Ministry of University and Research (PRIN project no. 2010P7LFW4).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.
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