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Food or fear? Predation risk mediates edge refuging in an insectivorous mammal

Animal Behaviour

Abstract

Understanding space use by animals plays a key role in a wide array of behavioural and ecological fields of study. An insight into how and why species use the space available to them may aid their conservation. The West European hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus, a species in decline in part of its range, is relatively mobile and adapted to a wide range of habitat types. However, it is frequently associated with edge habitats. This edge-refuging behaviour is not well understood and may be the result of fear of predators, food availability or other factors. We used radiotelemetry to investigate the movement of hedgehogs in comparable landscapes with high and low predator (badgers, Meles meles) abundance. Simultaneously, food availability was assessed in both landscapes. Our results suggest that agricultural habitats may be 'landscapes of fear' for hedgehogs in the presence of a high number of predators. On agricultural fields, hedgehogs were on average situated closer to edge cover in areas with predators present. It is thus likely to be beneficial for the conservation of hedgehogs in areas with a high number of predators to increase the complexity of the habitat structure by, among other measures, establishing more and denser hedgerows in rural areas. Our results suggest that enhancing the complexity of the habitat structure might lessen the effects of fear. Additionally, our results emphasize the importance of integrating data on predator abundance and food availability in studies that focus on habitat selection behaviour and species conservation. (C) 2012 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author(s): Hof, AR; Snellenberg, J; Bright, PW

Journal: Animal Behaviour

Year: 2012

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