On habitat selection by the goral Nemorhaedus goral bedfordi (Bovidae, Artiodactyla)



Habitat selection, diet, and escape behaviour of grey goral (Nemorhaedus goral bedfordi) were studied in Majhatal Harsang Wildlife Sanctuary (MHWS) in the Indian Himalaya. Five trails covering a total length of 8.5 km were monitored in the morning hours for availability of habitat components and their use by goral. Habitat components quantified were: vegetation type, tree density, shrub understorey, shrub height, and slope angle. Diet composition of goral was determined through faecal analysis. Information on escape strategy was gathered by recording the escape areas used by disturbed animals.

Goral fed almost entirely on grass (92.2% in the cold season and 98.3% in the warm season). They preferred open vegetation communities with good grass cover and avoided shrub-rich patches, especially areas where the shrub height exceeded their shoulder height. Goral selected patches with fresh grass sprout and were partial to steep (>30°) slopes.

In the morning, goral avoided most forested vegetation types in the area owing to extensive understorey. However, there was high use of forest cover with little understorey ‘for escape’ (32%, n= 200). Other escape terrain used were cliffs (31%), open gullies (16%), and rocky areas (13%).