Czech camera traps capture first evidence of new golden jackal settlement as ongoing climate change brings shifts in species distributions.
LONDON, 28 December, 2016 – Scientists in the Czech Republic have identified a potential beneficiary of climate change: a golden jackal, mostly identified with India and northern Africa, has been observed living in a new home just 40 kilometres from the capital city, Prague.
When Klára Pyšková began her master’s degree at the department of ecology at Charles University in Prague, she was just making a study of carnivore species in habitats typical for a central European landscape.
She certainly wasn’t looking for Canis aureus, also known as the Asiatic or common jackal, a wild, scavenging omnivore adapted to tropical and subtropical zones.
But, over an 18-month spell, her camera repeatedly captured pictures of a living golden jackal in woodland in central Bohemia. They have been identified in the republic before, but never live specimens.
The presence of the jackal is not entirely unexpected: a native population is found in the Balkans. But Pyšková and colleagues report in ZooKeys journal that the species has been observed expanding towards the northwest in recent decades.
Her camera first captured the individual on 19 June, 2015, and there were 57 records made by camera traps between then and 24 March 2016 − most of them in the same patch of shrubby grassland, and most of them at night.
Her study reports “the first evidence of a long-term occurrence in Europe of the same golden jackal individual, that persisted for at least nine months, and over winter, northwest of the Hungarian-Austrian border, where a population has been known to reproduce.”
The latest study is the first evidence of a permanent settler − and perhaps a new population in a region never before home to the species
Animals shift their terrain for more than one reason, but the trend has been unpromising for the larger vertebrates. Climate change and human habitat alteration has brought problems for the Iberian lynx and the Arabian oryx.
Meanwhile, at sea, lionfish have moved to new waters, and opportunistic rabbitfish from the Red Sea have invaded the Mediterranean.
There is evidence – based on roadkill and unconfirmed sightings – that the jackal may have reached the Czech republic two decades ago, probably from Austria.
But the latest study is the first evidence of a permanent settler − and perhaps a new population in a region never before home to the species. No cubs or mate have yet been observed.
The jackal is not considered an illegal or invading alien: if it crossed from Austria, then the settler arrived without human intervention from a region where it had been known to breed, and therefore could be considered natural.
The new Czech visitor had been photographed in a region described as densely populated, not far from a golf course and an airport.
“There are several factors that have probably facilitated the spread, including indirect human influence,” Pyšková says.
“Ongoing global change is bringing about shifts in species distributions that include both the spread of populations of invasive species and range expansions or contractions of native biota.
“In Europe, this is typically reflected in species moving from the south-eastern part of the continent to the north-west, most often in response to increasing temperatures that allow organisms to colonise areas that were previously unsuitable.
“Other suggested factors are human-caused changes in the overall character of landscapes, the lack of natural predators, particularly wolves, and high adaptability of the species.” – Climate News Network