The breeding of jackals has been proven in a reserve with ranging European bison and wild horses as the northernmost occurrence of this phenomenon in Europe

2017 - 07 - 17
The breeding of jackals has been proven in a reserve with ranging European bison and wild horses as the northernmost occurrence of this phenomenon in Europe

Central Europe has a new permanent resident. The reproduction of the golden jackal has been documented in a large ungulate reserve located in the former military training area of Milovice near Prague as the northernmost occurrence of this activity in Europe and for the very first time in the Czech Republic.

An image of a lactating female was captured very recently by a camera trap. Shortly afterwards, Vojtech Lukas, a photographer who has been documenting the project of the return of large herbivores over the years took a picture of a jackal pup.

The latest observations have confirmed the results of the research carried out at the site by experts from Charles University in Prague in 2015–2016. “We had been monitoring golden jackals at the site for more than a year as part of our carnivore research. Although it was recorded several times before in the Czech Republic, it is only through the use of camera traps that we have been able to confirm its permanent presence,” said Klara Pyskova from the Department of Ethology in the Faculty of Science of Charles University in Prague.

In 2015, pictures of jackals were taken almost 60 times at the site. “The fact that jackals keep on appearing at the site confirms our conclusion that it is not just a migratory individual; rather, it is a creature that has permanently settled locally,” added Klara Pyskova. “While records of the species exist in this country, this is the first confirmation of a permanent presence at a particular site,” said David Storch, director of the Centre for Theoretical Studies of Charles University in Prague, summing up the importance of the research.

The latest photographs of jackals show that the carnivore is not only permanently present, but also reproduces at the site. “The image of a lactating female with typically swollen teats as captured by the camera trap is indirect evidence, but the photograph of the juvenile animal is already a direct piece of evidence, so there is no doubt about the successful reproduction of the carnivore,” stated Miloslav Jirku from the Biological Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

From the past, there is at least one undocumented observation of a female jackal with pups from the territory of the Czech Republic. However, the current case is a confirmed sighting supported by photographs. “This is the first credible evidence of jackal reproduction in the territory of the Czech Republic and the northernmost documented reproduction of the species in Europe,” said Martin Salek from the Institute of Biology of Vertebrates of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, emphasising the particular importance of the evidence.

In this way, wild horses, European bison and aurochs share their reserve with this medium-sized carnivore that hunts small vertebrates, mainly rodents, while also feeding on plants, especially fruits, and, occasionally, on carcasses.
In Europe, the largest animals hunted by jackals are hares and birds that live on the ground. “In Romania, hunters there sometimes record jackals chasing roe deer, but it has not yet been documented that they can actually catch them. In the Balkans, where jackals are common, when the animal’s diet contains remains of deer or wild boar, it involves carcasses and remnants from catches of hunters,” adds Martin Salek, who has been engaged in long-term jackal research activity in the Balkans.

Due to the size and composition of the jackal’s diet, the level of its danger for horses, let alone aurochs and European bison, is zero. “Large ungulates are part of nature in these places and, although jackals do not pose a real danger to them, we believe that contact with a medium-sized predator can positively influence the natural instincts to defend offspring and the behaviour of the actual juveniles,” said Dalibor Dostal, director of the conservation organization European Wildlife.

The jackal is spreading to Central Europe from the Balkans, which are included in its native distribution range. The expansion of this carnivore to the north and to the west is tied to climate change. It can also be assumed that the animal’s rapid move through the continent has been facilitated by the absence of wolves, caused by humans, in regions that are now being newly colonised by jackals.
Jackals are yellowish-brown, rusty-brown to greyish in colour; this varies to a certain extent when they change their summer and winter coats. Due to the fused middle fingers on the paws, their footprints can be reliably distiguished from those of other canines. Jackals live in pairs or small family packs, occupying a territory of 2–20 km2.

Photo: Vojtech Lukas

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