Behavioural interference between ungulate species: roe are not on velvet with fallow deer
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- Ferretti, F., Sforzi, A. & Lovari, S. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2011) 65: 875. doi:10.1007/s00265-010-1088-8
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Interference is expected to occur at feeding areas between species with a similar diet, but few studies have tested this idea for wild ungulates. We analysed interactions between fallow deer, European roe deer and wild boar, in three sites, in a Mediterranean area. We expected that interference should be greater between deer than between them and wild boar. We documented the negative effects of behavioural interference by fallow on foraging behaviour of roe deer, under field conditions. Deer species built up 90% interference interactions, with fallow always dominant on roe, also through direct aggression. Although roe deer decreased feeding and increased vigilance levels in proximity (<50 m) of either fallow deer or wild boar, they were displaced significantly more often by the former than by the latter. Fallow deer were neither displaced nor alarmed by roe and rarely by wild boar. No deer species displaced wild boar. Interference was significantly greater on solitary roe deer, especially females, in spring and roe left the feeding ground most often in the smallest site (13 ha). Roe deer avoided areas where the local density of fallow deer was the highest. During our 4-year-study, roe deer density decreased whereas fallow deer numbers increased. Behavioural interference may explain how fallow deer outcompete roe deer through spatial exclusion from feeding sites and avoidance of areas with high densities of the former. Fallow deer evolved in semi-arid, relatively poor habitats of Asia Minor: interspecific defence of crucial resources could have developed as a beneficial tactic for its survival.