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Seasonal habitat selection of an expanding sika deer Cervus nippon population in eastern Hokkaido, Japan

Sakuragi, Mayumi, Igota, Hiromasa, Uno, Hiroyuki, Kaji, Koichi, Kaneko, Masami, Akamatsu, Rika, Maekawa, Koji
Wildlife biology 2003 v.9 no.2 pp. 141-153
Cervus nippon, agricultural land, altitude, bamboos, databases, females, geographic information systems, grasses, habitat preferences, habitats, landscapes, migratory behavior, mixed forests, models, population growth, regression analysis, roads, snow, summer, telemetry, winter, Japan
Sika deer Cervus nippon in Hokkaido, Japan, have recovered from a population bottleneck about 120 years ago and their distribution has expanded rapidly in the last three decades. We tracked 53 radio-collared female sika deer, and obtained 4,430 locations during the 25-month study period from April 1997 to April 1999. We examined the seasonal distribution of female sika deer in relation to spatial landscape features (snow depth, vegetation, bamboo grass and roads) with a logistic regression model using a geographic information system database. We presented a population-landscape scale evaluation of sika deer habitat for summer and winter within the telemetry study area (TSA) using resource selection functions. We then extrapolated the model to the rest of eastern Hokkaido to discuss the seasonal migration for an expanding population. Most radio-collared sika deer (71%) moved between high-elevation summer and low-elevation winter ranges, whereas some (29%) moved between low-elevation summer and similar or high-elevation winter ranges. During winter, sika deer selected middle elevation habitats (200–400 m a.s.l.) with both a relatively low snow depth and the presence of coniferous and mixed forests. On the other hand, sika deer were widely distributed regardless of elevation during summer, although they were further from roads and less often in agricultural lands. Within the TSA, the suitable habitat was very limited during winter compared with during summer. Although migration from summer to winter ranges may depend on the abundance and distribution of suitable winter habitat at a landscape scale, migration from winter to summer ranges could not be explained from this study. Our approach is useful for understanding the relationships among seasonal habitat selection, seasonal migration and the expansion of the population.