Spatial variation in the density and vulnerability of preferred prey in the landscape shape patterns of Amur tiger habitat use
Petrunenko YK., Montgomery RA., Seryodkin IV., Zaumyslova OY., Miquelle DG., Macdonald DW.
© 2016 Nordic Society Oikos. Theoretical and empirical research suggests that carnivore distributions are largely determined by prey availability. Availability depends not only on prey density but also on prey accessibility which is affected, in part, by the configuration of landscape attributes that make prey vulnerable to predation. Exactly how spatial variation in these processes shape patterns of carnivore habitat use at the home range scale remains poorly understood. We examined the influence of prey density (negative binomial resource selection function) and vulnerability (kill site resource selection function), mapped separately for each of three species of primary prey, on habitat use patterns within the home range for Amur tigers Panthera tigris altaica in Far East Russia over 20 winters. We developed spatially-explicit mixed linear regression models to assess these patterns and found that models with parameters for specific primary prey were more robust than models with composite parameters for all primary prey species. This emphasizes the importance of evaluating predation dynamics at a species-specific level. We also found that Amur tigers used habitat within the home range where red deer Cervus elaphus and wild boar Sus scrofa were dense. These two species were clearly preferred by tigers accounting for 72% (201 of the 278) of the tiger kills detected. The effect of red deer density however, was modulated by the vulnerability of red deer in the landscape. Amur tigers tended to establish their home ranges on habitat where red deer were most vulnerable to predation, but would use habitat where red deer were dense in the peripheral regions of their home ranges. This suggests that tigers may utilize two separate strategies for acquiring prey. As the configuration of resource patches within the home range influences carnivore survival and reproduction, our analysis has implications for tiger conservation that extend beyond our improved understanding of tiger-prey ecology.