Reintroduced wolves and hunting limit the abundance of a subordinate apex predator in a multi-use landscape

L. Mark Elbroch, Jake M. Ferguson, Howard Quigley, Derek Craighead, Daniel J. Thompson, Heiko U. Wittmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Top-down effects of apex predators are modulated by human impacts on community composition and species abundances. Consequently, research supporting top-down effects of apex predators occurs almost entirely within protected areas rather than the multi-use landscapes dominating modern ecosystems. Here, we developed an integrated population model to disentangle the concurrent contributions of a reintroduced apex predator, the grey wolf, human hunting and prey abundances on vital rates and abundance of a subordinate apex predator, the puma. Increasing wolf numbers had strong negative effects on puma fecundity, and subadult and adult survival. Puma survival was also influenced by density dependence. Overall, puma dynamics in our multi-use landscape were more strongly influenced by top-down forces exhibited by a reintroduced apex predator, than by human hunting or bottom-up forces (prey abundance) subsidized by humans. Quantitatively, the average annual impact of human hunting on equilibrium puma abundance was equivalent to the effects of 20 wolves. Historically, wolves may have limited pumas across North America and dictated puma scarcity in systems lacking sufficient refugia to mitigate the effects of competition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20202202
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1938
StatePublished - Nov 11 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding. This work was supported by the Summerlee Foundation, Charles Engelhard Foundation, Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust, Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, National Geographic Society (grant no. C236–13), Connemara Fund, the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, the Lee and Juliet Folger Fund, L. Westbrook, the Scully Family, R. and L. Haberfeld, Hogan LLC, L. and R. Holder, S. and L. Robertson,

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • competition
  • puma
  • survival
  • wolf
  • yellowstone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology (all)
  • Environmental Science (all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)


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