When species’ ranges meet: assessing differences in habitat selection between sympatric large carnivores
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- Rauset, G.R., Mattisson, J., Andrén, H. et al. Oecologia (2013) 172: 701. doi:10.1007/s00442-012-2546-y
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Differentiation in habitat selection among sympatric species may depend on niche partitioning, species interactions, selection mechanisms and scales considered. In a mountainous area in Sweden, we explored hierarchical habitat selection in Global Positioning System-collared individuals of two sympatric large carnivore species; an obligate predator, the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), and a generalist predator and scavenger, the wolverine (Gulo gulo). Although the species’ fundamental niches differ widely, their ranges overlap in this area where they share a prey base and main cause of mortality. Both lynx and wolverines selected for steep and rugged terrain in mountainous birch forest and in heaths independent of scale and available habitats. However, the selection of lynx for their preferred habitats was stronger when they were forming home ranges and they selected the same habitats within their home ranges independent of home range composition. Wolverines displayed a greater variability when selecting home ranges and habitat selection also varied with home range composition. Both species selected for habitats that promote survival through limited encounters with humans, but which also are rich in prey, and selection for these habitats was accordingly stronger in winter when human activity was high and prey density was low. We suggest that the observed differences between the species result primarily from different foraging strategies, but may also depend on differences in ranging and resting behaviour, home range size, and relative density of each species. Our results support the prediction that sympatric carnivores with otherwise diverging niches can select for the same resources when sharing main sources of food and mortality.