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Habitat selection by a generalist mesopredator near its historical range boundary

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The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana Kerr, 1792) has expanded its geographic range northward since European settlement, which has been attributed to its ability to exploit anthropogenic resources. To examine the utility of anthropogenic resources to this species, we monitored 61 opossums from 2009 to 2010 with very high frequency (VHF) telemetry in a fragmented agricultural ecosystem in northern Indiana, USA, at the periphery of the opossum’s historical distribution. We examined the influence of anthropogenic (agricultural areas, developed land, roads), disturbed (corridor, forest edge, grassland, water), and native (forest, shrub land) habitats on habitat selection at the second- and third-order scales across three seasons. At the second-order scale, areas proximate to agricultural fields and developed land were selected in the breeding and postbreeding seasons, respectively. Areas proximate to roads were selected at both spatial scales during all seasons except winter at the third-order scale. Areas near forest with high forest-edge density were selected throughout the year at both spatial scales, but confidence intervals for forest during the postbreeding season marginally overlapped zero (third-order scale). Although anthropogenic habitats provide novel resources for opossums, forest and forest edge remain essential components to populations near their historical distributional limit in agricultural ecosystems.

Keywords: Agriculture; Didelphis virginiana; Virginia opossum; agriculture; anthropique; anthropogenic; domaine vital; fragmentation; habitat selection; home range; opossum de Virginie; resource selection; schéma utilisation-disponibilité; space use; sélection de l’habitat; sélection des ressources; use availability design; utilisation de l’espace

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2014-01-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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