, Volume 15, Issue 8, pp 1807-1818
Date: 11 Jan 2013

Quantifying fine-scale resource selection by introduced European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in ecologically sensitive areas

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Abstract

Introduced predators are important drivers of ecosystem change and can threaten native species. The European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) was introduced from Britain into New Zealand where it is currently widespread, including in braided-river environments of the interior cold drylands where it might threaten native species such as riparian ground-nesting birds. The establishment of hedgehogs in braided-river environments may be facilitated by adjacent pastoral landscapes that provide food, primarily invertebrates, and dry shelter. Forays by hedgehogs into native prey habitats, such as riverbed floodplains, increase predation pressure. Understanding the spatial ecology of introduced predators can improve effectiveness of control measures. We assessed spatial resource selection by hedgehogs in a braided-river environment by tracking 27 individuals for 4–8 days in summer and autumn using microGPS-backpacks. We extracted fine-scale landscape variables from a map created using very high resolution satellite imagery to model home range placement within the study area. We also assessed habitat composition and ranking within high-use areas using compositional analysis. Hedgehogs established home ranges in pastoral landscapes containing abundant edges and high vegetation productivity (mainly green pastures and shrubs), and selected pastures and patches of shrubs as high-use areas. Hedgehogs avoided riverbed floodplains, suggesting that reported predation events on ground-nesting birds might be a consequence of secondary predation or individual specialization. We recommend that predation of native species by hedgehogs might be best alleviated if trapping is focused on those areas selected by native fauna of conservation concern (e.g. riverbed floodplains), as well some biologically-determined buffer surrounding these sites.