Environmental dynamics and anthropogenic development alter philopatry and space-use in a North American cervid


The space an animal uses over a given time period must provide the resources required for meeting energetic needs, reproducing and avoiding predation. Anthropogenic landscape change in concert with environmental dynamics can strongly structure space‐use. Investigating these dynamics can provide critical insight into animal ecology, conservation and management. The Piceance Basin, Colorado, USA. We applied a novel utilization distribution estimation technique based on a continuous‐time correlated random walk model to characterize range dynamics of mule deer during winter and summer seasons across multiple years. This approach leverages second‐order properties of movement to provide a probabilistic estimate of space‐use. We assessed the influence of environmental (cover and forage), individual and anthropogenic factors on interannual variation in range use of individual deer using a hierarchical Bayesian regression framework. Mule deer demonstrated remarkable spatial philopatry, with a median of 50% overlap (range: 8–78%) in year‐to‐year utilization distributions. Environmental conditions were the primary driver of both philopatry and range size, with anthropogenic disturbance playing a secondary role. Philopatry in mule deer is suspected to reflect the importance of spatial familiarity (memory) to this species and, therefore, factors driving spatial displacement are of conservation concern. The interaction between range behaviour and dynamics in development disturbance and environmental conditions highlights mechanisms by which anthropogenic environmental change may displace deer from familiar areas and alter their foraging and survival strategies.

Diversity and Distributions: 2