European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 111–124 | Cite as

Snow sinking depth and forest canopy drive winter resource selection more than supplemental feeding in an alpine population of roe deer

  • Federico Ossi
  • Jean-Michel Gaillard
  • Mark Hebblewhite
  • Francesca Cagnacci
Original Paper


In alpine environments, snow typically reduces the accessibility of herbivores to food during winter and may hamper survival in those species with poor adaptation to move in deep snow. Supplemental feeding systems compensate for food limitation, but modify resource distribution and potentially affect individual space use. We investigated the importance of snow cover and supplemental feeding in shaping winter habitat use and selection of the European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), a small deer species not specifically adapted to snow. We applied a used/available experimental design to assess the effects of snow cover on roe deer distribution at a fine scale and compared this approach with remotely sensed satellite data, available at moderate spatial resolution (snow MODIS). Based on this, we developed a resource selection function. We found a strong selection for habitat spots covered by forest where snow sinking depth was less pronounced, likely providing thermal and hiding protection on the one side and minimising the effect of snow on locomotion on the other. Roe deer showed only a minor preference for sites in proximity to feeding stations, possibly compensating the costs of access to these sites by means of a ‘trail-making’ behaviour. Snow cover assessed by moderate resolution satellite was not proportional to roe deer probability of use, highlighting the importance of local information on snow quality and distribution to complement remotely sensed data.


Roe deer Winter resource selection Snow sinking depth Supplemental feeding Resource selection function Snow MODIS 



We are grateful to the Forestry Service of the Autonomous Province of Trento (Servizio Foreste e Fauna, PAT), the Trentino Hunting Association (Associazione Cacciatori Trentini) and Adamello Brenta Natural Park (PNAB) for invaluable help during capture sessions and animal monitoring. We thank Maria Valent for her precious help during field data collection and an anonymous reviewer for insightful comments on a previous draft. We are grateful to Michele Freppaz and Margherita Maggioni for envaluable suggestions on snow sampling techniques. This work has been mainly financed by Fondazione Edmund Mach (Trentino, Italy). F.O. was granted three yearly scholarships financed by the European Union (European Social Funds), Aosta Valley Autonomous Region and the Italian Ministry for Work and Social Politics.

Ethical standards

The authors declare that animal handling practice, such as captures and collar marking, complies with the current Italian laws on animal welfare and has been approved by the Wildlife Committee of the Autonomous Province of Trento on 11th of September 2011.

Supplementary material

10344_2014_879_Fig6_ESM.gif (81 kb)
Fig. S1

The penetrometer and the elements that compound it. (GIF 81 kb)

10344_2014_879_MOESM1_ESM.tif (530 kb)
High Resolution Image (TIFF 530 kb)
10344_2014_879_Fig7_ESM.gif (42 kb)
Fig. S2

The whole penetrometer calibrated for this study (a) and the particular of the tip of the penetrometer (b). (GIF 41 kb)

10344_2014_879_Fig8_ESM.gif (24 kb)
Fig. S2

The whole penetrometer calibrated for this study (a) and the particular of the tip of the penetrometer (b). (GIF 41 kb)

10344_2014_879_MOESM2_ESM.tif (302 kb)
High Resolution Image (TIFF 302 kb)
10344_2014_879_MOESM3_ESM.tif (200 kb)
High Resolution Image (TIFF 200 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Federico Ossi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jean-Michel Gaillard
    • 1
  • Mark Hebblewhite
    • 3
    • 4
  • Francesca Cagnacci
    • 2
  1. 1.UUMR CNRS 5558 Biométrie et Biologie ÉvolutiveUniversité Claude Bernard Lyon 1Villeurbanne CedexFrance
  2. 2.Biodiversity and Molecular Ecology DepartmentIASMA Research and Innovation CentreSan Michele all’AdigeItaly
  3. 3.Wildlife Biology Program, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation SciencesUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA
  4. 4.Molecular Ecology DepartmentIASMA Research and Innovation CentreSan Michele all’AdigeItaly

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