A puma, a tapir, and a stalking horse
We and five other people were spot-lighting along the main road through Kaa-Iya del Gran Chaco Parque of Bolivia when we witnessed an unusual interaction between a puma and a Brazilian tapir. An adult tapir emerged onto the road immediately followed by an adult puma and together they walked away from us, the puma behind or beside the tapir, usually 3-4 m distant. We followed them for about 20 minutes and 700 m, eventually stopping because the puma often paused briefly to stare back at us before rejoining the tapir. None of the staff of our hosts, Nick’s Adventures/Bolivia, had witnessed such behavior before despite over a hundred puma encounters here.
We later hypothesized that the puma was using the tapir as a “stalking horse;” i.e., the strategy in which human hunters use a domestic animal to provide concealment or distract prey. Some leopards in the Serengeti have learned this tactic, using safari vehicles to enhance their hunting success. Trumpetfish have been videoed shadowing parrotfish to hunt; see the New York Times Aug 7, 2023 report on a paper by Matchette et al 2023, Current Biology 33(15).
We are thinking of publishing this observation and we would love to hear of any examples of analogous behavior of felids or other predators you have witnessed or heard about.
Mac Hunter and Charles Foley