Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy in Forest Science (PhD)
College, School or Department Name
School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science
John Andrew Vucetich
Habitat selection has been one of the main research topics in ecology for decades. Nevertheless, many aspects of habitat selection still need to be explored. In particular, previous studies have overlooked the importance of temporal variation in habitat selection and the value of including data on reproductive success in order to describe the best quality habitat for a species. We used data collected from radiocollared wolves in Yellowstone National Park (USA), between 1996 and 2008, to describe wolf habitat selection. In particular, we aimed to identify i) seasonal differences in wolf habitat selection, ii) factors influencing interannual variation in habitat selection, and iii) the effect of habitat selection on wolf reproductive success. We used probability density functions to describe wolf habitat use and habitat coverages to represent the habitat available to wolves. We used regression analysis to connect habitat use with habitat characteristics and habitat selection with reproductive success. Our most relevant result was discovering strong interannual variability in wolf habitat selection. This variability was in part explained by pack identity and differences in litter size and leadership of a pack between two years (summer) and in pack size and precipitation (winter). We also detected some seasonal differences. Wolves selected open habitats, intermediate elevations, intermediate distances from roads, and avoided steep slopes in late winter. They selected areas close to roads and avoided steep slopes in summer. In early winter, wolves selected wetlands, herbaceous and shrub vegetation types, and areas at intermediate elevation and distance from roads. Surprisingly, the habitat characteristics selected by wolves were not useful in predicting reproductive success. We hypothesize that interannual variability in wolf habitat selection may be too strong to detect effects on reproductive success. Moreover, prey availability and competitor pressure may also have an influence on wolf reproductive success, which we did not assess. This project demonstrated how important temporal variation is in shaping patterns of habitat selection. We still believe in the value of running long-term studies, but the effect of temporal variation should always be taken into account.
Uboni, Alessia, "Wolf habitat selection at the territory level : seasonal and interannual variation and influence on reproductive success", Dissertation, Michigan Technological University, 2012.