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Experimental evidence for density-dependence of home-range size in roe deer (Capreolus capreolus L.): a comparison of two long-term studies


The effect of experimental manipulation of population density on home-range size was investigated in two free-ranging roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) populations under contrasting environmental conditions. In these two long-term monitoring studies, one in Bogesund, Sweden (12 years) and one in Dourdan, France (10 years), deer density varied fourfold through varying culling pressure. Home-range data were collected by radio-tracking across the periods of contrasting density of the studies. We predicted that home-range size for females should vary in relation to the level of feeding competition, while for males, competition for mating opportunities should also influence range size, at least in summer when roe bucks are territorial. We found a highly consistent pattern over the two populations, with strong effects of deer density on home-range size, as well as significant differences between winter and summer ranges and between the sexes. Home ranges were consistently smaller at high density compared to low density. Males had larger ranges than females and this was particularly so during summer. Lastly, winter ranges were generally larger than summer ranges, particularly among females, although males at Dourdan had larger summer ranges compared to winter ranges. We suggest that the reduction of range size at high deer density during winter, as well as summer, is linked to the solitary behaviour and territorial social system of roe deer, with possible effects of dominance rank, even outside the mating season.

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We are grateful to Lars Gustavsson, Angelica Hammarström, Gunnar Jansson, Lennart Pettersson, Leif Rooth, Gunnar Schön and Pia-Lena Widén for help with fieldwork at Bogesund over the years, Roger Bergström, Christel Guillet, Agneta (Johansson) Olsson and Kjell Wahlström for sharing their data, William “Bill” Faber and Rory Putman for comments, suggestions and ideas on earlier drafts of the manuscript, Henrik Andrén for statistical advice, and Assi Domän AB for allowing us to work on their land. We thank B. Boisaubert and D. Delorme of the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage. This study was supported by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management, and by the private foundations of “Oscar och Lili Lamms Minne” and “Olle och Signhild Engkvists stiftelser” (Sweden) and the Office National des Forêts (France).

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Kjellander, P., Hewison, A.J.M., Liberg, O. et al. Experimental evidence for density-dependence of home-range size in roe deer (Capreolus capreolus L.): a comparison of two long-term studies. Oecologia 139, 478–485 (2004).

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  • Seasonal home range
  • Social system
  • Territoriality
  • Ungulates