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What shapes Eurasian lynx distribution in human dominated landscapes: selecting prey or avoiding people?

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In the multi-use landscape of southern Norway, the distribution of lynx is likely to be determined both by the abundance of their favoured prey – the roe deer – and the risk associated with the presence of humans because most lynx mortalities are caused by humans (recreational harvest, poaching, vehicle collisions). We described the distribution of the reproductive portion of the lynx population based on snow-track observations of females with dependent kittens collected over 10 yr (1997–2006) in southern Norway. We used the ecological-niche factor analysis to examine how lynx distribution was influenced by roe deer, human activity, habitat type, environmental productivity and elevation. Our first prediction that lynx should be found in areas of relatively high roe deer abundance was supported. However, our second prediction that lynx should avoid human activity was rejected, and lynx instead occupied areas more disturbed in average than those available (with the exception of the most densely occupied areas). Lynx, however, avoided the most disturbed areas and our third prediction of a trade-off between abundance of prey and avoidance of human activity was supported. On the one hand, roe deer in the most disturbed areas benefit to a large extent from current human land use practices, potentially allowing them to escape predation from lynx. On the other hand, the situation is not so favourable for the predators who are restricted in competition refuges with medium to low prey densities. The consequence is that lynx conservation will have to be achieved in a human modifed environment where the potential for a range of conflicts and high human-caused mortality will remain a constant threat.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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