Bongi, Paolo and Ciuti, Simone and Grignolio, Stefano and Del Frate, M. and Simi, S. and Gandelli, D and Apollonio, Marco (2008) Anti-predator behaviour, space use and habitat selection in female roe deer during the fawning season in a wolf area. Journal of Zoology, Vol. 276 (3), p. 242-251. eISSN 1469-7998. Article.
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This study investigated the anti-predator strategies adopted by 19 radio-collared female roe deer during the fawning season by monitoring their spatial behaviour and habitat selection by means of radio-tracking. The study was carried out in a forest area of the Apennine Mountains (central Italy), where wolves are natural predators of roe deer and in summer fawns are more frequently predated than adult roe deer. The presence of fawns was monitored by means of direct observations. Roe deer fawns are known to adopt the hiding strategy during the lactation period, when they lie concealed for long periods waiting for their mothers' milk. As a consequence of this, the home-range sizes of mothers were significantly smaller than those of non-mothers during the summer lactation only. In contrast, no significant difference was found in spring, when fawns were absent, or autumn, when they were already weaned. In order to increase the success of the hiding strategy adopted by their fawns against wolf predation, mothers selected denser habitats (deciduous coppice forests) that provided denser undergrowth vegetation and limited visibility. In doing so, mothers traded open areas for forests throughout the fawning season. Indeed, mothers made significant habitat selection throughout the monitored period, and this was marked after the birth of fawns. In contrast, non-mothers generally used habitat types according to their availability. During lactation, the correlation between habitat use by mothers and habitat visibility (assessed using the form of a standard-sized roe deer) was inversely significant. These results taken together highlight the importance of anti-predator strategies adopted by roe deer mothers during the critical phase for fawn survival.
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