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Habitat use and preference by polecats (Mustela putorius L.) in a Mediterranean agricultural landscape

Authors


Correspondence
Carlo Rondinini, Department of Animal and Human Biology, Università di Roma ‘La Sapienza’, Viale dell' Università 32, 00185 Roma, Italy. Tel: +39-06-4969-4218;
Fax: +39-06-491135
Email: carlo.rondinini@uniroma1.it

Abstract

An investigation is reported on the use of and preference for riparian vegetation, road verges, ponds and farms by polecats Mustela putorius L. living in a fragmented cultivated area. Eighteen polecats of both sexes were marked with radio-collars and monitored for 2–18 months each. Individuals were monitored with single nightly radio-locations, and during 12- and 24-h continuous sessions. Sex and seasonal variations in the density of key habitat features within home ranges were analysed. In order to measure the seasonal strength of attraction to key habitat features, the average distance to these features of observed trajectories, and of corresponding Monte-Carlo simulations, was compared. Polecats positively selected riparian vegetation within their home range throughout the year. Female home ranges contained more farms and ponds than those of adult males in the breeding season. Males expanded their home ranges in the breeding season, and the strength of attraction to riparian vegetation and ponds increased accordingly. The remnants of riparian vegetation apparently acted as a key habitat feature providing food and cover. Furthermore, these linear and interconnected landscape elements can facilitate the long-range movements involved in the search for mates.

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