Researchers have reviewed studies on the diet of golden jackals in south-eastern Europe and published their findings in the Mammal Review journal. More than half of the jackal’s diet consists of small mammals, like mice. In addition, they consume birds, medium-sized mammals, plants and fruits, as well as livestock animals. An important conclusion is that livestock is primarily consumed as carcass. Generally, the golden jackals did not actively hunt or kill livestock.
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What is a golden jackal?
The golden jackal, in Latin called Canis aureus, is a species that is native to Asia and Europe. It is family of the canids, size-wise between a fox and wolf. Over the past decades, it has been expanding its range across Europe. Previously, it only used to be common in south-eastern Europe. Yet, nowadays it has now been observed in the majority of EU Member States.
Experts suggest that the expansion is made possible because of various factors. Due to climate change, there are more areas with favourable conditions for golden jackals. They generally do not like areas with long continuous snow cover, such as high mountain regions. Nevertheless, a jackal was recently spotted high up in the Italian Alps. Another factor is the historical persecution of wolves, which controlled the presence of golden jackals. As humans hunted wolves close to extinction in the past, the wolves could not control the golden jackals anymore. Furthermore, there is a lot of food waste produced in the urbanised landscape, on which the golden jackal can scavenge.
Concerns with appearance of jackals
The golden jackal is not the only carnivore returning to many EU countries. The wolf is also returning and resettling in areas across Europe. With the wolves’ return, there are concerns amongst people, mostly livestock farmers, for the safety of their animals. Besides implementing effective livestock protection measures, it is thus also important to understand what golden jackals eat.
Generally, the golden jackal is an opportunistic predator. That means, it will eat what it finds. Previous studies have shown that the jackals eat mostly animals, but also fruits and plants. In urbanised areas, they are even seen as the ‘cleaners’, as they feed on improperly disregarded food waste. In the latest review article, researchers have compared data from 20 dietary studies.
Not a specialist hunter
The variety of diet sources, ranging from small to bigger animals and plants shows that golden jackal are highly adaptable to their surrounding. However, the jackals are not actively hunting large prey. Instead, they normally scavenge on carcasses that other predators leave behind. There is also a seasonal fluctuation in diet composition. It reflects that the golden jackal eats whatever its finds, basically. Studies found that in summer and autumn, jackals consume more plants, fruits and little rodents, for example.
Opportunistic animals like golden jackals rarely disrupt ecosystems, the researchers conclude. Instead, they rather bring balance by switching between food sources that are abundant. Curious to read more details? You will find the full study below: