Does habitat type modify group size in roe deer and red deer under predation risk by Iberian wolves?

  • Barja I
  • Rosellini S
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We examined whether group size in red deer (Cervus elaphus L., 1758) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus (L., 1758)) under predation risk by Iberian wolves (Canis lupus L., 1758) is affected by the type of habitat in which the deer reside. We hypothesized that group size (i) would be larger in open than in closed habitats, since it is an antipredator response, and (ii) would vary more with habitat type in the species that had higher wolf predation rates. In the study area, wolves were the only predator of wild ungulates, with roe deer being the main target prey. We performed monthly transects along paths to observe the group size of red and roe deer. In roe deer, the mean group size was significantly higher in open than in closed habitats, serving as an antipredator response. However, in red deer, habitat type did not affect group size. The results indicate that under predation risk by wolves the habitat type influences the grouping behavior of roe deer but not red deer. Furthermore, compared with forests, heaths offer less protection from predators and species in this habitat would benefit from larger group sizes. © 2008 NRC.

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  • I. Barja

  • S. Rosellini

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