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Accounting for individual behavioural variation in studies of habitat selection

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Abstract

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A caribou wearing an animal-borne video camera (a) and animal-borne video footage taken from systems deployed on mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in north-central Washington state, USA (b-d). When paired with tracking technology, animal-borne video can reveal detailed information about behaviour and environmental features at each location: (b) feeding, (c) vigilant in the open, (d) vigilant in cover, (e) resting in the open. Accordingly, animal-borne video systems should allow for analyses of habitat selection by individuals in particular behavioural states. In Focus: DeCesare, N.J., Hebblewhite, M., Bradley, M., Hervieux, D., Neufeld, L. & Musiani, M. (2014) Linking habitat selection and predation risk to spatial variation in survival. Journal of Animal Ecology, 83, 343352.Resource selection is often assumed to confer enhanced fitness, but this assumption is rarely examined. In a study involving woodland caribou subject to grey wolf predation, DeCesare et al. (2014) show that while patterns of selection by caribou did correspond with a fitness proxy (survival probability), individuals did not avoid wolf predation risk to the extent that would minimize mortality. Here, we use the results of this paper as a springboard for discussing the choice of fitness proxies and the need to account for individual behavioural variation in studies of resource selection.

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