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Northrup J.M.,Colorado State University | Anderson C.R.,Mammals Research Section Colorado Parks and Wildlife Fort Collins | Wittemyer G.,Colorado State University
Diversity and Distributions | Year: 2016

Aim: The space an animal uses over a given time period must provide the resources required for meeting energetic needs, reproducing and avoiding predation. Anthropogenic landscape change in concert with environmental dynamics can strongly structure space-use. Investigating these dynamics can provide critical insight into animal ecology, conservation and management. Location: The Piceance Basin, Colorado, USA. Methods: We applied a novel utilization distribution estimation technique based on a continuous-time correlated random walk model to characterize range dynamics of mule deer during winter and summer seasons across multiple years. This approach leverages second-order properties of movement to provide a probabilistic estimate of space-use. We assessed the influence of environmental (cover and forage), individual and anthropogenic factors on interannual variation in range use of individual deer using a hierarchical Bayesian regression framework. Results: Mule deer demonstrated remarkable spatial philopatry, with a median of 50% overlap (range: 8-78%) in year-to-year utilization distributions. Environmental conditions were the primary driver of both philopatry and range size, with anthropogenic disturbance playing a secondary role. Main conclusions: Philopatry in mule deer is suspected to reflect the importance of spatial familiarity (memory) to this species and, therefore, factors driving spatial displacement are of conservation concern. The interaction between range behaviour and dynamics in development disturbance and environmental conditions highlights mechanisms by which anthropogenic environmental change may displace deer from familiar areas and alter their foraging and survival strategies. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Northrup J.M.,Colorado State University | Anderson C.R.,Mammals Research Section Colorado Parks and Wildlife Fort Collins | Wittemyer G.,Colorado State University
Global Change Biology | Year: 2015

Extraction of oil and natural gas (hydrocarbons) from shale is increasing rapidly in North America, with documented impacts to native species and ecosystems. With shale oil and gas resources on nearly every continent, this development is set to become a major driver of global land-use change. It is increasingly critical to quantify spatial habitat loss driven by this development to implement effective mitigation strategies and develop habitat offsets. Habitat selection is a fundamental ecological process, influencing both individual fitness and population-level distribution on the landscape. Examinations of habitat selection provide a natural means for understanding spatial impacts. We examined the impact of natural gas development on habitat selection patterns of mule deer on their winter range in Colorado. We fit resource selection functions in a Bayesian hierarchical framework, with habitat availability defined using a movement-based modeling approach. Energy development drove considerable alterations to deer habitat selection patterns, with the most substantial impacts manifested as avoidance of well pads with active drilling to a distance of at least 800 m. Deer displayed more nuanced responses to other infrastructure, avoiding pads with active production and roads to a greater degree during the day than night. In aggregate, these responses equate to alteration of behavior by human development in over 50% of the critical winter range in our study area during the day and over 25% at night. Compared to other regions, the topographic and vegetative diversity in the study area appear to provide refugia that allow deer to behaviorally mediate some of the impacts of development. This study, and the methods we employed, provides a template for quantifying spatial take by industrial activities in natural areas and the results offer guidance for policy makers, mangers, and industry when attempting to mitigate habitat loss due to energy development. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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