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Abstract

Territory establishment and antler cycle in male roe deer, Capreolus capreolus, were studied in two areas in south-eastern Sweden during 1989–1993. Initial territorial behaviour was observed in early Mar., when overlap between male ranges decreased from 66 % to 0 % over a 3–6-wk period, as determined from telemetry data. The decrease was associated with an increased number of agonistic interactions. Most territories were established at the end of Mar. to early Apr., with a tendency for males re-establishing old territories to be first. In all years, territories were taken up 1–3 wk before males shed velvet from their antlers. The distance between geometric centres of neighbouring males in winter and after territory establishment increased from 164 to 364 m. Former territory holders moved the geometric centres of their winter range and subsequent territory a shorter distance than first-year territorials, 129 and 267 m respectively. Territory defence ceased after the rut in late Aug., and the spatial relations between neighbours reverted to the situation before the territorial season. Neither velvet shedding nor antler casting was correlated with male age (yearlings excluded), which contradicts earlier statements. Neither were there any associations between timing of antler casting and subsequent velvet shedding, nor vice versa. Hence, a male casting antlers early one year derives no advantage by early shedding the next season. Furthermore, to be in hard antlers is not a prerequisite for territory take-up, whereas antlers probably are necessary for maintaining the area throughout the season. Functional aspects on roe buck territoriality are also discussed.