SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Brown lemmings reach much higher densities than collared lemmings near Barrow, Alaska, and captures from 19 summers of snap trapping confirm previous reports that brown lemmings prefer lower, wetter habitats than do collared lemmings. Data also support the hypothesis that brown lemmings concentrate in higher habitats during early summer when melt water floods lower habitats, then shift to lower habitats where preferred food is more available as the waters recede. This pattern appears similar to seasonal shifts in habitat use reported for Norwegian lemmings. Two hypotheses were not supported by our data: (1) Unlike Norwegian lemmings, brown lemmings did not expand their use of suboptimal habitats at higher population densities. Rather, absolute densities changed in concert so that the relative densities among habitats remained unchanged. (2) Preferential use of polygon troughs during winter, as indicated by patterns of winter grazing, was not simply a function of snow depth. Instead it appeared to be related to shoot density of preferred foods. Nearly all patterns of habitat use seemed to be linked to food availability. Other factors, such as protection from predators by vegetative cover in summer and increased insulation from deeper snow in winter, did not appear to influence the distribution of lemmings as strongly.