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Relating predation mortality to broad-scale habitat selection

Authors

  • PHILIP D. McLOUGHLIN,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 112 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5E2, Canada; and
      Dr Philip D. McLoughlin, Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 112 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5E2, Canada, Tel: (306) 966 4451; Fax: (306) 966 4461; E-mail: mcloughlin@sask.usask.ca
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  • JESSE S. DUNFORD,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, CW-405 Biological Sciences Centre, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada
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  • STAN BOUTIN

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, CW-405 Biological Sciences Centre, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada
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Dr Philip D. McLoughlin, Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 112 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5E2, Canada, Tel: (306) 966 4451; Fax: (306) 966 4461; E-mail: mcloughlin@sask.usask.ca

Summary

  • 1Few studies have related metrics of fitness to broad-scale, multivariate patterns of resource selection.
  • 2Our objective was to relate long-term predation-mortality patterns for adult woodland caribou [Rangifer tarandus caribou (Banfield)] from Alberta, Canada (1991–2002), with patterns of multivariate habitat selection.
  • 3We first compared probabilities of radio-tracked caribou dying (n = 55) from predation in habitats within the home range, controlling for habitat availability, with that expected from habitat selection probabilities for the same animals during life. We then compared survival rates of caribou (n = 141) possessing dissimilar patterns of habitat selection using a Cox proportional hazards regression model.
  • 4Patterns in habitat-specific predation mortality differed significantly from expected given probabilities of habitat selection during life (P < 0·0001). Cox regression indicated that mortality rates of caribou due to predation were affected significantly by and can be predicted from patterns of selection (P = 0·02).
  • 5Our results strongly suggest that uplands (primarily mixed deciduous and coniferous forest) present caribou with higher than expected levels of predation risk, and that caribou can avoid predation by maximizing selection of peatlands (open, conifer-dominated bogs and fens).
  • 6Approaches presented in this study may be useful for ecologists interested in assessing the influence of mortality factors on broad-scale, multivariate resource selection. Linking metrics of fitness to multivariate resource selection will enable us to ask questions of evolutionary ecology once restricted to only the finest ecological scales.

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