Walter, W.D., T.S. Evans, D. Stainbrook, B.D. Wallingford, C.S. Rosenberry, and D.R. Diefenbach. 2018. Heterogeneity of a landscape influences size of home range in a North American cervid. Scientific Reports 8:14667. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-32937-7.
Spatial heterogeneity, or composition and configuration of a landscape, plays a role in many biological and ecological processes. In spatial ecology, understanding movements of a species in relation to the landscape can assist wildlife managers in better understanding other processes, including habitat use and disease transmission. In the northeastern United States (Northeast), chronic wasting disease has been detected in populations of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and understanding the relationship between landscape and size of home range may provide a basis for disease surveillance and containment efforts. The objectives of our study were to (1) compare size of home range between sexes and among study areas for white-tailed deer occupying a continuum of forested landscapes from highly fragmented to contiguous and (2) investigate relationships between size of home range and measures of landscape composition and configuration. We observed differences in size of 95% home range between males (3.77 km2) and females (1.83 km2) across all study areas, as well as between deer in highly fragmented and contiguous landscapes. We developed 20 linear regression models that contained measures of landscape that were correlated with size of home range, and the best model showed that size of home range increased with connectivity of forest cover. Understanding this relationship may provide a foundation for disease surveillance efforts, because size of home range may represent the scale at which disease will spread. Therefore surveillance should be conducted in a manner that reflects connectivity of landscape at a local scale.