Corridors or risk? Movement along, and use of, linear features varies predictably among large mammal predator and prey species


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Abstract

Space-use behaviour reflects trade-offs in meeting ecological needs and can have consequences for individual survival and population demographics. The mechanisms underlying space use can be understood by simultaneously evaluating habitat selection and movement patterns, and fine-resolution locational data are increasing our ability to do so.We use high-resolution location data and an integrated step-selection analysis to evaluate caribou, moose, bear, and wolf habitat selection and movement behaviour in response to anthropogenic habitat modification, though caribou data were limited. Space-use response to anthropogenic linear features (LFs) by predators and prey is hypothesized to increase predator hunting efficiency and is thus believed to be a leading factor in woodland caribou declines in western Canada.We found that all species moved faster while on LFs. Wolves and bears were also attracted towards LFs, whereas prey species avoided them. Predators and prey responded less strongly and consistently to natural features such as streams, rivers and lakeshores. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that LFs facilitate predator movement and increase hunting efficiency, while prey perceive such features as risky.Understanding the behavioural mechanisms underlying space-use patterns is important in understanding how future land-use may impact predator–prey interactions. Explicitly linking behaviour to fitness and demography will be important to fully understand the implications of management strategies.The authors provide a framework to combine habitat selection and movement behaviour to understand the mechanisms behind space-use patterns. They then apply this framework to a predator–prey system of high socio-economic value in Canada, woodland caribou, to understand caribou, moose, bear and wolf space use in relation to human habitat alteration.

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