Habitat selection by roe deer and sheep: does habitat ranking reflect resource availability?

  • Mysterud A
  • Larsen P
  • Ims R
 et al. 
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Habitat ranking is often assumed to reflect food availability, but habitat selection may involve trade-offs, for example, between selecting for food or cover. We tested whether the habitat selection of 27 radio-collared European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and 10 free-ranging domestic sheep (Ovis aries) on a forest range in southern Norway reflected resource availability. We predicted that ruminants of different feeding types would use habitats according to the main forage class, but that antipredator behavior might remove the correlation between habitat selection and food availability, thus making temporal and spatial scaling crucial. As predicted, habitat selection by sheep was highly correlated with grass availability on both the home-range and study-area scales. The habitat ranking of roe deer habitat selection did not correlate with the availability of herbs on either scale, but rather was correlated with the availability of canopy cover. We found a clear effect of temporal scale on habitat selection by roe deer. During summer, roe deer used forest habitats with more forage to a greater extent when they were active than when they were inactive, and tended to use habitats with greater availability of herbs at night. We conclude that scale-dependent trade-offs in habitat selection may cause inconsistent habitat rankings when pooled across temporal and spatial scales.

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  • Atle Mysterud

  • Per Kristian Larsen

  • Rolf Anker Ims

  • Eivind Østbye

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