Dogs, people, and deer in an urban park: female fallow deer (Dama dama) bed-site selection during the fawning season

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Title: Dogs, people, and deer in an urban park: female fallow deer (Dama dama) bed-site selection during the fawning season
Authors: Conteddu, Kimberly
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Date: 2020
Online since: 2022-05-05T15:50:42Z
Abstract: Human population keeps growing at an unprecedented pace and so do the effects of the anthropogenic footprint on wildlife habitat. As a result, human-wildlife conflict in urban and semi-urban areas is an issue of increasing concern. Empirical data from wildlife research carried out in urban areas are key to understand the effect of human pressures on wildlife ecology and behaviour, and to inform future wildlife management decisions within human dominated landscapes. An empirical-driven management of wild animal populations is of vital importance for both human wellbeing and animal welfare. Animal welfare includes allowing animals to display natural behaviours, which is often significantly constrained within urban areas. Here, I gathered empirical data on the behaviour of fallow deer (Dama dama) mothers and their fawns during the fawning season in the largest urban park in Europe, Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland. The aim of this study was to understand how female deer and their fawns have adapted their behaviour during the birth period in an area dominated by people (over 10 million visitors per year in an area of 10km2) and their dogs. More in detail, I have collated data about 481 bedsites of 285 fawns during three consecutive fawning seasons, and modelled bedsite selection by fitting Resource Selection Functions (RSFs). In the first two to three weeks after birth, mothers leave their fawns alone hidden in the vegetation for several hours while they are grazing in the main pastures. Hiding is an anti-predator behaviour adopted by fawns to reduce predator pressure mainly from terrestrial predators such as the red fox. I found that, when choosing the bedsites where to give birth and leave fawns unattended, mothers significantly avoided hotspots of people presence, keeping a distance of at least 187.5m from them. In addition, bedsites were located away from roads (being rarely located within 50 meters from a road) and characterized by dense understory vegetation giving low visibility. For the first time, through the combination of bedsite data as well as observations of people and their dogs, I described bedsite selection at a resolution never attempted before, gathering empirical evidence on the features of bedsites selected by mothers to successfully give birth and protect their fawns during the first weeks of life. These data can be used by urban wildlife managers to protect fawning sites and alleviate human-wildlife conflict during this critical period of the deer annual biological cycle. Ensuring fawns’ wellbeing and survival in urban areas is fundamental for maintaining high welfare standards of urban wildlife through the implementation of good management practices.
Type of material: Master Thesis
Publisher: University College Dublin. School of Biology and Environmental Science
Qualification Name: M.Sc.
Copyright (published version): 2020 the Author
Keywords: BedsiteHuman-wildlife conflictHuman pressuresUrban wildlife
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
This item is made available under a Creative Commons License:
Appears in Collections:Biology and Environmental Science Theses

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