The non-consumptive effects of predators on prey are now widely recognized, but the need remains for studies identifying the factors that determine how particular prey species respond behaviorally when threatened with predation. We took advantage of ongoing gray wolf (Canis lupus) recolonization in eastern Washington, USA, to contrast habitat use of two sympatric prey species—mule (Odocoileus hemionus) and white-tailed (O. virginianus) deer—at sites with and without established wolf packs. Under the hypothesis that the nature and scale of responses by these ungulates to wolf predation risk depend on their divergent flight tactics (i.e., modes of fleeing from an approaching predator), we predicted that (1) mule deer would respond to wolves with coarse-scale spatial shifts to rugged terrain favoring their stotting tactic; (2) white-tailed deer would manage wolf risk with fine-scale shifts toward gentle terrain facilitating their galloping tactic within their current home range. Resource selection functions based on 61 mule deer and 59 white-tailed deer equipped with GPS radio-collars from 2013 to 2016 revealed that habitat use for each species was altered by wolf presence, but in divergent ways that supported our predictions. Our findings add to a growing literature highlighting flight behavior as a viable predictor of prey responses to predation risk across multiple ecosystem types. Consequently, they suggest that predators could initiate multiple indirect non-consumptive effects in the same ecosystem that are transmitted by divergent responses of sympatric prey with different flight tactics.
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We are grateful to the Colville Tribes Fish and Wildlife Department, and especially to E. Krausz and R. Whitney, for permission to access their lands, guidance, logistical support, and comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. We also thank the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and especially M. Marsh, for guidance and logistical support. Field assistance was provided by M. Bianco, K. Ebenhoch, J. Fournier, A. Smethurst, K. Perensovich, S. Stark, C. Montgomerie, B. Woodruff, I. Hull, C. Whitney, and TC Walker. Valuable field training was provided by W. Myers and J. Kujala.
This project was carried out under NSF DEB grants 1145902 (AJW) and 1145522 (MRH). Additional funding was provided by the Safari Club International Foundation, Conservation Northwest, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account, ALEA: AJW and JAD), the University of Washington Student Technology Fee (STF: CRS and JAD) program, and the University of Washington USEED program (AJW, JAD, CRS, and AC).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
All applicable institutional and/or national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
Communicated by Anders Angerbjörn.
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Dellinger, J.A., Shores, C.R., Craig, A. et al. Habitat use of sympatric prey suggests divergent anti-predator responses to recolonizing gray wolves. Oecologia 189, 487–500 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-018-4323-z
- Canis lupus
- Mule deer
- Non-consumptive effects
- Odocoileus hemionus
- O. virginianus
- Predation risk
- White-tailed deer