African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) are often the least popular large carnivore among game ranchers because of their perceived impact on prey populations. Landowner perceptions include that wild dogs greatly deplete prey during their three-month denning period, take prey that could otherwise be sold for hunting and cause prey to move away from the vicinity of their den sites. Landowners’ tolerance towards African wild dogs could thus be improved with a more rigorous understanding of the actual impact of wild dogs on prey populations during the denning period. Using impala density data and wild dog denning records from Sango Ranch in the Savé Valley Conservancy, Zimbabwe, we compared impala densities between pre-denning, denning and post-denning season and between inside and outside the denning home range. Our results indicate that wild dog denning does not cause a significant local reduction in prey around the den and does not cause prey to move away from denning areas. However prey species did occur in lower density inside the denning home ranges than outside, in all seasons. This result indicates that wild dogs select dens in areas of lower prey density, perhaps as an avoidance mechanism for lions. Accordingly, contrary to what landowners believe, wild dogs do not have a significant impact on prey populations during their denning season.
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