When refuge becomes risk: an empirical test of the landscape of fear model
The ‘landscape of fear’ has been proposed as a unifying concept in ecology by linking population distribution patterns through top-down predator-prey mechanisms. The landscape of fear predicts that prey resource selection patterns are influenced by spatially and temporally predictable patterns of predator risk across a landscape. Although the model has been suggested to predict prey space-use patterns across a variety of systems, it remains unclear if individuals exposed to similarly risky environments (i.e., within the home range) will consistently avoid predator risk. I tested the landscape of fear concept using a natural experiment where moose hunting was introduced to a previously hunter-naïve moose population. I quantified hunting risk by developing risk landscape layers derived from harvest data collected over the first three hunting seasons (2011, 2012 and 2013) in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, Canada. Yearly hunter-risk layers were then used as a continuous variable in moose resource selection analysis to understand if moose respond to hunter risk, and if all individuals respond similarly to risk, as predicted by the landscape of fear. I found moose hunters were generally more likely to harvest moose near landscape features that offered easy access and a wide field of view. Moose generally did not avoid hunting risk until the second hunting season, and only during daylight hours. Conversely, at night, moose were generally found to select hunter-risky areas, with the strength of selection progressively increasing each year. I found considerable individual variation in moose response to hunting risk, however, with some individuals failing to alter selection strategies to avoid hunter risk. The motivation to respond to risk may be based on fitness related trade-offs associated with anti-predatory behavior, personality, and/or an individual’s ability to correctly assess risk on the landscape. My research highlights the importance of incorporating individual patterns in resource selection strategies when attempting to address landscape-level processes, such as the landscape of fear concept.
Ecology, Predatory-Prey, Spatial Dynamics, Resource Selection, Landscape of Fear
Master of Science (M.Sc.)