Habitat and Social Organisation of Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus).
Previous studies of roe deer suggested that habitat influences range size, but food abundance has been investigated without conclusive results. This research investigates the influence of habitat on specific aspects of behaviour, and the influence of food abundance and quality on dispersion of roe deer.
Populations were compared between two areas with different vegetation (Porton Down: grassland, woodland, farmland: Chedington Wood: softwood plantation). Individuals in both populations were marked, and a proportion fitted with radio-tags. Food abundance and quality (digestibility, calorific value, nutrients) were assessed in all habitats.
Diet patterns of activity and habitat use occurred in both areas. Open habitats were used more during darkness. Food distribution influenced feeding sites: disturbance influenced when sites were used. Diet changes at Chedington were less pronounced because food and cover were more evenly distributed. Habitat use and diet at Porton changed significantly with season, but were not correlated with food supply.
Social behaviour followed an annual cycle. Group size varied between habitats in winter and spring. Intra-group spacing was related to season, time period, habitat and group size. Group composition varied with month and habitat, but not time period. Marked deer occupied characteristic ranges. At Porton, adult ranges overlapped: overlap between males decreased in spring, but territories were not effectively exclusive. Within study areas, range sizes of adults were not significantly different. Ranges of both sexes were significantly larger at Porton than at Chedington and contained more food. However, they did not contain significantly more available nitrogen, suggesting that available nitrogen is an important proximate factor influencing range size.