Habitat selection in translocated gregarious ungulate species: An interplay between sociality and ecological requirements

Authors

  • Laura Scillitani,

    Corresponding author
    1. DAFNAE, Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural Resources, Animals and Environment, University of Padua, Viale dell' Università 16, I-35020 Legnaro, Padua, Italy
    • DAFNAE, Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural Resources, Animals and Environment, University of Padua, Viale dell' Università 16, I-35020 Legnaro, Padua, Italy
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  • Gaëlle Darmon,

    1. Université de Lyon, F-69000 Lyon, France
    2. Université Lyon 1, CNRS, UMR5558, Laboratoire de Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive, F-69622 Villeurbanne, France
    Current affiliation:
    1. Chaire de Recherche Industrielle CRSNG-Produits Forestiers Anticosti, Département de Biologie, Pavillon Vachon, Université Laval 1045, ave. de la Médecine, Québec, Canada G1V0A6.
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  • Andrea Monaco,

    1. Regional Park Agency, Lazio Region, via del Pescaccio 96, 00166 Roma, Italy
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  • Giampaolo Cocca,

    1. DAFNAE, Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural Resources, Animals and Environment, University of Padua, Viale dell' Università 16, I-35020 Legnaro, Padua, Italy
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  • Enrico Sturaro,

    1. DAFNAE, Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural Resources, Animals and Environment, University of Padua, Viale dell' Università 16, I-35020 Legnaro, Padua, Italy
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  • Luca Rossi,

    1. Department of Animal Production, Epidemiology and Ecology, University of Turin, via Leonardo da Vinci 44, I-10095 Grugliasco, Italy
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  • Maurizio Ramanzin

    1. DAFNAE, Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural Resources, Animals and Environment, University of Padua, Viale dell' Università 16, I-35020 Legnaro, Padua, Italy
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  • Associate Editor: Bret Collier

Abstract

The adaptation of translocated organisms to a new environment in the first years after their release is crucial in translocation programs because it may affect survival and reproductive success. Therefore, identifying the factors determining resource selection by the relocated animals is essential to improve the planning and the outcome of such programs. Using data collected in 2006–2009 in the framework of a restocking program, we studied the temporal variation of habitat selection in 14 translocated Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) during the year of their release and the following 3 years. We hypothesized a progressive adaptation of the translocated individuals, highlighted by a gradual decrease in the dissimilarities between translocated and resident individuals in ecological characteristics and social behavior. We tested the differences in habitat selection and home range size between the translocated and resident individuals and compared the spatial overlap between the groups. As expected, the dissimilarities decreased annually. The translocated and resident ibex almost immediately selected the same habitat resources, but the translocated individuals required 3 years to become fully socially assimilated. Our results indicated that habitat selection by gregarious species in a new environment is primarily driven by specific ecological requirements and that sociality plays a significant role. The translocated individuals tended to colonize areas already occupied by residents, either to fulfill social requirements and/or because the location of resident individuals may indicate high-quality habitat. This pattern of behavior must be considered in the planning of translocation programs because habitat selection can affect the outcomes of the programs. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.

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