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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Playbacks of predator vocalizations reduce crop damage by ungulates

Widén, Anna; Clinchy, Michael; Felton, Annika; Hofmeester, Tim; Kuijper, Dries P.J.; Singh, Navinder; Widemo, Fredrik; Zanette, Liana Y.; Cromsigt, Joris


Wild ungulates are a major consumer of agricultural crops in human dominated landscapes. Across Europe, ungulate populations are leading to intensified human-wildlife conflicts. At the same time, ungulates play a vital role in the structuring and functioning of ecosystems, and are highly appreciated for recreational hunting. Thus, managers often face the challenge of maintaining the benefits of having thriving ungulate populations while simultaneously minimizing their negative impacts. Broadcasting playbacks of predator vocalizations (e.g. dogs barking, wolves howling or humans talking) could potentially be used to induce fear and thereby displace or steer behavior of ungulates from conflict-prone sites resulting in reduced visitation and foraging time and consumption. Predator playback experiments in wilderness areas have repeatedly demonstrated to reduce the preys ' resource use and impacts on the surrounding landscape, but this has not been tested in agricultural fields where human-ungulate conflicts are most pronounced. We responded to this need by conducting a predator playback experiment in multiple crop fields in southern Sweden, where multiple ungulate species (fallow deer, roe deer, red deer, moose, wild boar) coexist, using a novel integrated camera trap - speaker system (ABRs) that broadcasts sounds of choice when a camera is triggered by an ungulate. Predator playbacks (wolf, dog, human) reduced deer patch use and crop damage on wheat fields more than playbacks of control sounds (owl, goose, raven). Our results confirm findings from previous studies in wilderness areas, and demonstrate that broadcasting predator playbacks using ABRs may provide an effective tool to reduce crop damage at the scale and duration of our study.


Crop damage; Landscape of fear; Ungulate management; Predator-induced fear; Playback experiment

Published in

Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
2022, Volume: 328, article number: 107853