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Ale, S. B., Brown, J.S. (2009). Prey behavior leads to predator: a case study of the Himalayan tahr and the snow leopard in Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Nepal. Israel Journal of Ecology & Evolution, 55(4), 315–327.
Abstract: Rare, elusive predators offer few sightings, hindering research with small sample sizes and lack of experimentation. While predators may be elusive, their prey are more readily observed. Prey respond to the presence of a predator, and these fear responses may have population- and community-level consequences. Anti-predator behaviors, such as vigilance, allow us to sidestep the difficulty of direct field studies of large predators by studying them indirectly. Here we used a behavioral indicator, the vigilance behavior of the Himalayan tahr, the snow leopard’s main local prey, to reveal the distribution and habitat use of snow leopards in the Mt. Everest region of Nepal. We combined techniques of conventional field biology with concepts of foraging theory to study prey behavior in order to obtain insights into the predator’s ecology. The Himalayan tahr’s vigilance behavior correlates with the distribution of snow leopard signs. Tahr actually led us to six sightings of snow leopards. We conclude that behavioral indicators provided by prey offer a valuable tool for studying and monitoring stealthy and rare carnivores.