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Golden Jackal Canis aureus, a medium-sized omnivore belonging to the family Canidae, ranges widely from Europe and extends across the middle-east to India. It’s adaptable social system according to the distribution of food resources enabling it to range widely from desert to evergreen forests, mangroves, rural, and semi-urban human-agro-ecosystems. Despite its wide distribution, the species has not received adequate scientific attention in much of its southern India range. This study was carried out to assess its distribution pattern, diet composition, and prey preference at Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary, a well-known habitat for the jackal and the only predator of the sanctuary. Data on distribution collected through extensive field surveys revealed that the species distribution is uniform in southern and southeastern parts of the sanctuary, in areas where the habitat is more open with grasslands and mudflats and is patch in the tropical dry-evergreen habitat. Analysis of 155 scat samples revealed that the diet comprised 19 species of food items, including mammals, birds, insects, other invertebrates, and plant matter characterizing omnivorous nature. Temporal variation in diet composition—with significantly higher proportion of birds during winter than in summer—coincides with abundance of prey species in relation to season, which indicate the opportunistic foraging and hunting nature of the species. Data on diet preference showed that jackals in the area preferred Black-naped Hare, Spotted Dove and Lapwing followed by Chital, Grey Francolin, Cattle Egret, and Large Egret, while Blackbuck, Bonnet Macaque, and cattle were not preferred, which is discussed under optimal foraging. The jackal being the only large-sized predator of this natural system, more detailed studies and effective measures to conserve the species are vital not only to understand the prey-predator mechanism, but also to conserve the biodiversity of this unique ecosystem.
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