We’re sorry, something doesn't seem to be working properly.

Please try refreshing the page. If that doesn't work, please contact support so we can address the problem.


Prey refuges as predator hotspots: ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) attraction to agouti (Dasyprocta punctata) dens

We’re sorry, something doesn't seem to be working properly.

Please try refreshing the page. If that doesn't work, please contact support so we can address the problem.


We tested the hypothesis that prey refuges attract predators, leading to elevated predator activity in the vicinity of refuges. We used camera traps to determine whether the spatial activity of a predator, the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), was biased toward refuge locations of its principal prey, the agouti (Dasyprocta punctata). We radio-tracked agoutis at night to locate active refuges and compared the activity of ocelots between these refuges and surrounding control grid locations. We found that ocelots visited the area near agouti refuges significantly more often and for longer periods of time than control locations, and that they actively investigated the refuge entrances. Both occupied and unoccupied refuges were visited, but the duration of inspection was longer at occupied refuges. As the ocelots could probably not see the agoutis within the refuges, olfaction likely cued foraging ocelots. Two refuges were repeatedly visited by the same ocelots on different days, suggesting spatial memory. Overall, our results suggest that predators can be attracted to prey refuges or refuging prey. The benefits to prey of staying nearby a refuge would thus be counterbalanced by higher likelihoods of predator encounter. This should stimulate prey to use multiple refuges alternatingly and to not enter or exit refuges at times of high predator activity.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. Aliaga-Rossel E, Moreno RS, Kays R, Giacalone J (2006) Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) predation on agouti (Dasyprocta punctata). Biotropica 38:691–694

  2. Banks PB, Norrdahl K, Korpimäki E (2000) Nonlinearity in the predation risk of prey mobility. P Roy Soc Lond B 267:1621–1625

  3. Blumstein DT (1998) Quantifying predation risk for refuging animals: a case study with golden marmots. Ethology 104:501–516

  4. Camp MJ, Rachlow JL, Woods BA, Johnson TR, Shipley LA (2012) When to run and when to hide: the influence of concealment, visibility, and proximity to refugia on perceptions of risk. Ethology 118:1010–1017

  5. Cowlishaw G (1994) Vulnerability to predation in baboon populations. Behaviour 131:293–304

  6. Craig CL, Freeman CR (1991) Effects of predator visibility on prey encounter: a case study on aerial web weaving spiders. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 29:249–254

  7. Crawley MJ (2007) The R book. Wiley, New York

  8. Day RT, Elwood RW (1999) Sleeping site selection by the golden-handed tamarin Saguinus midas midas: the role of predation risk, proximity to feeding sites, and territorial defence. Ethology 105:1035–1051

  9. Dillon A, Kelly M (2008) Ocelot home range, overlap and density: comparing radio telemetry with camera trapping. J Zool 275:391–398

  10. Emmons LH (1988) A field-study of ocelots (Felis pardalis) in Peru. Rev Ecol (Terre Vie) 43:133–157

  11. Emsens W-J, Suselbeek L, Hirsch BT, Kays R, Winkelhagen AJS, Jansen PA (2013) Effects of food availability on space and refuge use by a neotropical scatter-hoarding rodent. Biotropica 45:88–93

  12. Hammond JI, Luttbeg B, Sih A (2007) Predator and prey space use: dragonflies and tadpoles in an interactive game. Ecology 88:1525–1535

  13. Harmsen BJ, Foster RJ, Silver SC, Ostro LET, Doncaster CP (2011) Jaguar and puma activity patterns in relation to their main prey. Mamm Biol 76:320–324

  14. Heymann EW (1995) Sleeping habits of tamarins, Saguinus mystax and Saguinus fuscicollis (Mammalia, Primates, Callitrichidae), in North-Eastern Peru. J Zool 237:211–226

  15. Hughes NK, Price CJ, Banks PB (2010) Predators are attracted to the olfactory signals of prey. PLoS One 5:e13114

  16. Kays R, Tilak S, Kranstauber B, Jansen PA, Carbone C, Rowcliffe M, Fountain T, Eggert J, He Z (2011) Camera traps as sensor networks for monitoring animal communities. International Journal of Research and Reviews in Wireless Sensor Networks 1:19–29

  17. Kramer DL, Bonenfant M (1997) Direction of predator approach and the decision to flee to a refuge. Anim Behav 54:289–295

  18. Lambert TD, Kays RW, Jansen PA, Aliaga-Rossel E, Wikelski M (2009) Nocturnal activity by the primarily diurnal Central American agouti (Dasyprocta punctata) in relation to environmental conditions, resource abundance and predation risk. J Trop Ecol 25:211–215

  19. Leigh EG (1999) Tropical forest ecology: a view from Barro Colorado Island. Oxford University Press, New York

  20. Maffei L, Noss AJ, Cuellar E, Rumiz DI (2005) Ocelot (Felis pardalis) population densities, activity, and ranging behaviour in the dry forests of eastern Bolivia: data from camera trapping. J Trop Ecol 21:349–353

  21. Moreno RS, Kays RW, Samudio R (2006) Competitive release in diets of ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and puma (Puma concolor) after jaguar (Panthera onca) decline. J Mammal 87:808–816

  22. Peinke DM, Brown CR (2005) Burrow utilization by springhares (Pedetes capensis) in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Afr Zool 40:37–44

  23. Phillips ML, Clark WR, Nusser SM, Sovada MA, Greenwood RJ (2004) Analysis of predator movement in prairie landscapes with contrasting grassland composition. J Mammal 85:187–195

  24. Rodriguez-Duran A (1996) Foraging ecology of the Puerto Rican boa (Epicrates inornatus): Bat predation, carrion feeding, and piracy. J Herpetol 30:533–536

  25. Roth TC, Lima SL (2007) Use of prey hotspots by an avian predator: purposeful unpredictability? Am Nat 169:264–273

  26. Sih A (1984) The behavioral-response race between predator and prey. Am Nat 123:143–150

  27. Smythe N (1978) The natural history of the Central American agouti (Dasyprocta punctata). Smithson Contr Zool 257:1–52

  28. Sonerud GA, Fjeld PE (1987) Long-term memory in egg predators—an experiment with a hooded crow. Ornis Scand 18:323–325

  29. Stephens D, Krebs JR (1986) Foraging theory. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

  30. Sunquist M, Sunquist F (2002) Wild cats of the world. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

  31. Turner DC, Patrick P, Bateson B (2000) The domestic cat: the biology of its behavior. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

  32. Ylonen H, Sundell J, Tiilikainen R, Eccard JA, Horne T (2003) Weasels' (Mustela nivalis nivalis) preference for olfactory cues of the vole (Clethrionomys glareolus). Ecology 84:1447–1452

Download references


We thank Sumana Serchan and Matt McElroy for field assistance, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript. We thank the National Science Foundation (NSF-DEB-0717071 to RK) and the Netherlands Foundation for Scientific Research (NWO-WOTRO W85-239 and NWO-ALW 863-07-008 to PAJ) for financial support.

Author information

Correspondence to Willem-Jan Emsens.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

(MPG 58898 kb)


(MPG 58898 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Emsens, W., Hirsch, B.T., Kays, R. et al. Prey refuges as predator hotspots: ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) attraction to agouti (Dasyprocta punctata) dens. Acta Theriol 59, 257–262 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13364-013-0159-4

Download citation


  • Agouti
  • Behavior
  • Movement
  • Ocelot
  • Predation
  • Refuge