Ecological characteristics of Caracal (Caracal caracal) in Türkiye: An isolated Feline population
Keywords:Caracal caracal, Mediterranean Ecosystems, Türkiye, camera-trapping, REM
Caracal is an adaptive and generalist predator with high ecological tolerance on the other hand it has an isolated population in Türkiye. We investigated the ecological characteristics of caracal (Caracal caracal) in the Mediterranean ecosystems of Southwestern Anatolia (Türkiye) where its population is isolated from other Asian populations. We used field observations and camera trap methodology across a landscape covering 750 km2 to determine the population status, morphology, behavioural characteristics, the status of species in the community, diet and habitat preference of caracal in the region. Caracal density was estimated to be 0,18 caracals/km2. The female home range was estimated to be between 4,1 km2 and 25 km2 whereas the male home range was estimated to be between 5 km2 and 50 km2 or more. Species’ daily activity was determined as cathemeral. Annual activity patterns as well as home range sizes decreased during the dry season. During the wet season, caracal activity as well as home range sizes increased. Vegetation cover was found to be the most important factor affecting habitat use by caracal. A strong negative correlation of 0.7 between caracal occurrence and forest cover indicated that forest cover was the most important factor affecting habitat use by a caracal. Caracal occurrence was also positively correlated with 3 mammal species in the study area, wild boar, European hare and wild goat. Caracal was determined as the dominant carnivore species in the ecosystem. Wild herbivore populations in the study area seem to be influenced by caracal thus resulting in a conspicuous effect on grazing pressures. We conclude that caracal is a keystone species in our ecosystem and plays a vital role in maintaining their integrity. Thus, the conservation of the caracal population is crucial for the conservation of the whole Mediterranean ecosystem.
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