The diurnal habitat used by red deer (Cervus elaphus L.) in the Haute Ardenne
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We describe diurnal habitat used by red deer (Cervus elaphus L.) in two representative forests of Haute Ardenne. We captured 17 calves and 13 adults and fitted them with VHF transmitters (ear tags or collars). Each animal was radio-tracked at least once per week during the daylight hours and relocated by triangulation. To determine habitat use, we used compositional analysis. We defined use for each animal as the proportion of relocations in each vegetation association. Each relocation was weighed according to its accuracy (i.e., based on the confidence ellipse computation). We defined availability as the proportion in the area of each vegetation association within its home range (i.e., minimum convex polygon). Red deer calves preferred edges in open areas (e.g., clear-cuts) during their first 3 months of life. Adults used open coniferous [e.g., natural regeneration of spruce (Picea abies)] stands and edges between coniferous stands and other vegetation associations. Closed coniferous stands were preferred during winter and deer usually used the edges of habitat patches rather than the core areas, except in winter for coniferous stands. The deciduous stands [e.g., old growth stands of beech (Fagus sylvatica)] were usually avoided, except in winter when the edges of deciduous stands were used. The availability of coniferous stands and edges partly determined the size of the diurnal home ranges.
KeywordsBedding site Belgium Confidence ellipse Habitat selection Home range Radio-tracking
Red deer were captured in accordance with the regional law: Arrêté du Gouvernement wallon (du 7 mars 2001) autorisant le Laboratoire de la Faune sauvage et de Cynégétique du Centre de Recherche de la Nature, des Forêts et du Bois à immobiliser temporairement des animaux des espèces Cerf et Sanglier dans certains territoires de chasse à des fins de recherches scientifiques (Moniteur Belge 11.05.2001). The study was financially supported by the Walloon Region (MRW-DGRNE). Most of the field data were collected by Julien Lievens (Centre de Recherche de la Nature, des Forêts et du Bois) and some rangers of the Royal Hunts (Division de la Nature et des Forêts). Scientific support was provided by Simon de Crombrugghe (CRNFB), Professors Eric Leboulengé and Pierre Dedourny (Université catholique de Louvain), and Doctor Georges Janeau (Institut national de Recherches agronomiques–Comportement et Ecologie de la Faune sauvage). The comments of Jim Casaer (Instituut voor Bosbouw en Wildbeheer) and Isabelle Noirot greatly improved the manuscript, as well as the comments of two anonymous reviewers of the European Journal of Wildlife Research.
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