Sika deer distribution and habitat selection: the influence of the availability and distribution of food, cover, and threats
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Journal: European Journal of Wildlife Research
Large populations of sika deer occur in lowland heath, woodland, and grassland mosaics in southern England. Previous studies have focused on understanding single factors potentially affecting distribution and habitat selection of sika deer rather than considering simultaneously effects of landscape configuration and human disturbance on their distribution and habitat selection. This study measured effects of habitat availability, landscape structure, and human disturbance on where sika deer placed their home ranges and habitat selection within those ranges. Two main hypotheses were tested: (1) habitat selection differs according to landscape structure and habitat availability at both landscape and home range scales and (2) distribution of sources of human disturbance within the home range of deer affects their distribution. Results from radiotracking 31 females provided support for the first hypothesis and partial support for the second. Habitat selection at the landscape and home range scales differed between landscapes with different habitat structure and availability and was driven by distribution and availability of food and cover and a perceived risk linked to disturbance. Furthermore, deer selected open areas close to cover and this selection was stronger with presence of human disturbance, although results differed between study areas with different habitat distribution and level of disturbance. The study highlights the importance for managing deer of a balance between grazing and cover resources and the distribution of human disturbance. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.