New publication: Temporal variation in habitat selection breaks the catch-22 of spatially contrasting risk from multiple predators.
By Karen Lone, Atle Mysterud* et al. in Oikos.
Predator avoidance depends on prey being able to discern how risk varies in space and time, but this is made considerably more complicated if risk is simultaneously present from multiple predators. This is the situation for an increasing number of mammalian prey species, as large carnivores recover or are reintroduced in ecosystems on several continents. Roe deer Capreolus capreolus in southern Norway illustrate a case in which prey face two predators with contrasting patterns of predation risk. They face a catch-22 situation: spatially avoiding the risk from one predator (lynx Lynx lynx in dense habitat) implies exposure to the other (hunters in open habitat). Using GPS-data from 29 roe deer, we tested for daily and seasonal variation in roe deer selection for habitat with respect to the habitats’ year-round average risk level. Generally, roe deer altered their habitat selection between night and day in a pattern consistent with being able to avoid predicted risk from the nocturnal lynx during night and predicted risk from human hunters during day. However, seasonal variation in habitat selection only partially corresponded with the predicted seasonal variation in risk. Whereas roe deer avoided areas with high risk from hunters more strongly during the hunting season than in other seasons, there was a lack of selection towards areas and time periods lowering the risk of lynx predation during winter. It seems likely that the risk of starvation and thermal stress constrain roe deer habitat selection during this energetically challenging season with cold temperatures, snow cover and limited natural forage. The habitat selection pattern of roe deer fits thus only partly with the two contrasting risk gradients they face. Adjusting risk-avoidance behavior temporally can be an adaptive response in the case of several predators whose predation patterns differ in space and time.
*Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, UiO.
See the publication webpage for full author information.