Ecological Applications

Risky business: How an herbivore navigates spatiotemporal aspects of risk from competitors and predators

Publication Date Jun 14, 2022


Understanding factors that influence animal behavior is central to ecology. Basic principles of animal ecology imply that individuals should seek to maximize survival and reproduction, which means carefully weighing risk against reward. Decisions become increasingly complex and constrained, however, when risk is spatiotemporally variable. We advance a growing body of work in predator-prey behavior by evaluating novel questions where a prey species is confronted with multiple predators and a potential competitor. We tested how fine-scale behavior of female mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) during the reproductive season shifted depending upon spatial and temporal variation in risk from predators and a potential competitor. We expected female deer to avoid areas of high risk when movement activity of predators and a competitor were high. We used GPS data collected from 76 adult female mule deer, 35 adult female elk, 33 adult coyotes, and six adult mountain lions. Counter to our expectations, female deer exhibited selection for multiple risk factors, however, selection for risk was dampened by the exposure to risk within home ranges of female deer, producing a functional response in habitat selection. Furthermore, temporal variation in movement activity of predators and elk across the diel cycle did not result in a shift in movement activity by female deer. Instead, the average level of risk within their home range was the predominant factor modulating the response to risk by female deer. Our results counter prevailing hypotheses...


Female Deer Functional Response In Habitat Selection Average Level Of Risk Response In Habitat Selection Female Mule Deer Influence Animal Behavior Potential Competitive Interactions Potential Competitor Predator-prey Behavior Mule Deer

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