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Abstract

Among mammals, female searching behaviour for a mate has been poorly investigated in behavioural studies on sexual selection. The social organization of roe deer and its physiological constraints suggest the existence of searching strategies by females. Using radiotracking and direct observation we studied the spatial behaviour and intersexual interactions of 32 roe does during the rut in two areas of Tuscany, central Italy. Respectively, 55% and 33% of females performed excursions outside their usual home ranges during the peak of the rut (15 Jul.–15 Aug.). Excursions ranged from 0.6 to 3.0 km, if measured in a straight line, and lasted 30–52 h. During excursions, females (1) moved quickly in one direction; (2) met and were courted by a male; (3) copulated with a male and (4) returned to their home ranges after mating. Before starting an excursion, roaming females were observed to approach unsuccessfully males already courting other females. Most likely excursions represent a condition dependent mating tactic adopted by a variable proportion of females and involving active searching behaviour.