Habitat selection of an expanding beaver (Castor fiber) population in central and upper Morava River basin
Habitat selectivity by European beaver (Castor fiber L., 1758) was studied in 226 km of river channels during their colonization of the Morava River basin (the Czech Republic), which had not been occupied by beavers for hundreds of years. The colonization started after initial reintroductions in 1991 and 1992. Annual increases in colonization of the river system from 1995 to 2007 were 15.5±9.4 SD km year−1 and varied greatly between these years (min 0 km, max 33 km). Beavers appeared to be following a dispersal pattern, in which distant sites are often colonized before close-by sites. The selection of habitat variables during the colonization process varied. In the early phase of colonization, there were many areas with optimal habitat that were not occupied by beavers, and habitat selection appeared chaotic. After this early phase, the most significant habitat variable related to beaver occupation was shown to be the presence of willow (Salix spp.) species. In the later phases, the beaver population expanded into suboptimal habitat. Settlement distance from roads, railways, and urbanized areas became less. When comparing the generalized linear models, a model from the winter of 2003/2004 had the best overall accuracy and showed excellent agreement among observed and fitted values (Cohen’s κ=0.75). The model suggests that beavers established their home ranges at first in optimal habitat, which had not been occupied before and then subsequently in suboptimal/marginal areas.