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Keywords:

  • brown bear;
  • elevational gradients;
  • Eurasian lynx;
  • grey wolf;
  • habitat and predation patterns;
  • intra-guild competition;
  • regional zoning of large carnivores;
  • species co-existence;
  • wolverine

Summary

  • 1
    The re-establishment of large carnivores in Norway has led to increased conflicts and the adoption of regional zoning for these predators. When planning the future distribution of large carnivores, it is important to consider details of their potential habitat tolerances and strength of inter-specific differentiation. We studied differentiation in habitat and kill sites within the large-carnivore community of south-eastern Norway.
  • 2
    We compared habitat selection of the brown bear Ursus arctos L., Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx L., wolf Canis lupus L. and wolverine Gulo gulo L., based on radio-tracking data. Differences in kill site locations were explored using locations of documented predator-killed sheep Ovis aries L. We modelled each species’ selection for, and differentiation in, habitat and kill sites on a landscape scale using resource selection functions and multinomial logistic regression. Based on projected probability of occurrence maps, we estimated continuous patches of habitat within the study area.
  • 3
    Although bears, lynx, wolves and wolverines had overlapping distributions, we found a clear differentiation for all four species in both habitat and kill sites. The presence of bears, wolves and lynx was generally associated with rugged, forested areas at lower elevations, whereas wolverines selected rugged terrain at higher elevations. Some degree of sympatry was possible in over 40% of the study area, although only 1·5% could hold all four large carnivores together.
  • 4
    Synthesis and applications. A geographically differentiated management policy has been adopted in Norway, aimed at conserving viable populations of large carnivores while minimizing the potential for conflicts. Sympatry of all four carnivores will be most successful if regional zones are established of adequate size spanning an elevational gradient. High prey densities, low carnivore densities, low dietary overlap and scavenging opportunities have most probably led to reduced competitive exclusion. Although regional sympatry enhances the conservation of an intact guild of large carnivores, it may well increase conflict levels and resistance to carnivore conservation locally.