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Infanticide [in carnivores]: Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives

There are inherent difficulties in reviewing the sources of mortality in wild carnivores. Besides the fact that mortality has often been inflicted by fieldworkers themselves, most carnivores are nocturnal, solitary, and wary of humans. Consequently, ecological studies often consist solely of analyses of feces, and ranging studies are often based on the movement patterns of radio collars worn by unseen animals. Furthermore, even intensive direct observations do not always provide good data on cubs mortality because female carnivores keep their young hidden for the first few weeks or months of life. Most cub mortality, therefore, must be inferred from disappearance, and the causes of death remain unknown. Finally, attributing death to infanticide presents special difficulties in carnivores. An observation of a carnivore eating a conspecific is not conclusive evidence of intraspecific predation: carnivores are usually scavengers as well as predators. However, because of their carnivorous habits and because most bear altricial young, carnivores are more likely to exhibit infanticide than any other mammalian order.

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