Abundant, localized foods can concentrate predators and their foraging efforts, thus altering both the spatial distribution of predation risk and predator preferences for prey that are encountered incidentally. However, few investigations have quantified the spatial scale over which localized foods affect predator foraging behavior and consumption of incidental prey. In spring 2010, we experimentally tested how point-source foods altered how generalist predators (white-footed mice, Peromyscus leucopus) utilized space and depredated two incidental prey items: almonds (Prunus dulcis; highly profitable) and maple seeds (Acer saccharum; less profitable). We estimated mouse population densities with trapping webs, quantified mouse consumption rates of these incidental prey items, and measured local mouse activity with track plates. We predicted that 1) mouse activity would be elevated near full feeders, but depressed at intermediate distances from the feeder, 2) consumption of both incidental prey would be high near feeders providing less-preferred food and, 3) consumption of incidental prey would be contingent on predator preference for prey relative to feeders providing more-preferred food. Mouse densities increased significantly from pre- to post-experiment. Mean mouse activity was unexpectedly greatest in control treatments, particularly <15 m from the control (empty) feeder. Feeders with highly preferred food (sunflower seeds) created localized refuges for incidental prey at intermediate distances (15 to 25m) from the feeder. Feeders with less-preferred food (corn) generated localized high risk for highly preferred almonds <10 m of the feeder. Our findings highlight the contingent but predictable effects of locally abundant food on risk experienced by incidental prey, which can be positive or negative depending on both spatial proximity and relative preference.
Schartel, Tyler E. and Schauber, Eric M. "Relative Preference and Localized Food Affect Predator Space Use and Consumption of Incidental Prey." PLoS One 11, No. 3 (Mar 2016): e0151483. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0151483.