Ranging behaviour of huemul in relation to habitat and landscape


Robin Gill, Ecology Division, Forest Research, Alice Holt Lodge, Wrecclesham, Surrey GU10 4LH, UK.
Email: Robin.Gill@forestry.gsi.gov.uk


The huemul Hippocamelus bisulcus is an endangered species of deer occupying temperate woodland habitats in the Andes of southern Chile and Argentina. Continuing declines due to a combination of hunting and habitat loss have created a need for more conservation measures. However, current information on ranging behaviour, dispersal and seasonal movements is very limited. Three sites were therefore selected in Aysén, Chilean Patagonia, to study the movements and habitat associations of huemul. Although seasonal migrations in elevation had been reported previously for the species, we found the extent of seasonal movement limited, much less than that reported for other deer species in mountainous environments. Huemul selected mid-slope elevations, and the winter ranges of most animals overlapped summer ranges. The extent of the seasonal movements that were undertaken were, however, the greatest at the highest site and insignificant at the lowest site. Previously published information shows that habitats used by huemul follow a latitudinal gradient in elevation (reducing c. 100 m °S−1 in latitude), and our results suggest that seasonal movements are likely to be greater in sites above this line. The mean range size differed between sites, ranging from 357 to 656 ha (mean 444 ha; median 506 ha). These estimates excluded long-distance (>5 km) movements, which were infrequent.