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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Habitat and crop selection by red deer in two different landscape types

Mansson, Johan; Nilsson, Lovisa; Felton, Annika M.; Jarnemo, Anders

Abstract

Crop raiding ungulates can cause costly yield losses and conflicts between agriculture, game management, and conservation. It is therefore crucial to know how, where, and when ungulates use different habitats and crops. In this study we used resource selection functions and GPS-tagged red deer Cervus elaphus (n = 38) in two different study areas (North - mainly forested land and South - mainly arable land), to investigate how red deer use arable land and different crop types in relation to availability and distance to forest cover in Sweden. Our study shows a transitional use of arable land and forests by red deer. Red deer spend on average 45% and 21% of their time in arable land in South and North respectively. In the North, arable land was selected while forest and wetlands were selected in the South. The selection of different crops also differed between the two study areas, for example rapeseed was highly selected during both seasons in South while it was used to a lower degree in relation to its availability in the North. In both study areas the probability of red deer presence on the agricultural fields decreased with distance to forest. The significant use of arable land and unharvested crops by the increasing red deer population in Sweden highlights a risk for crop damage that may need further consideration for farming practices as well as for damage and wildlife management. In our case damage mitigation should focus on rapeseed in the South, whereas there is a less clear pattern of selection among growing crops in the North. The differences in habitat and crop selection between the two areas also highlights the need of knowledge about red deer habitat selection at a regional level to be able to adapt damage mitigation and wildlife management strategies accordingly. Moreover, the transitional use of arable land and forests by red deer in mixed landscapes may imply that consumption of certain crops can affect browsing patterns and damage levels within forests and vice versa, that may have implication for both agriculture and forestry and calls for future studies.

Keywords

Agriculture; Cervus elaphus; Crop damage; Management; Resource selection function; Ungulate

Published in

Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
2021, Volume: 318, article number: 107483
Publisher: ELSEVIER