Tolerance to disturbance regulated by attractiveness of resources: A case study of desert bighorn sheep within the River Mountains, Nevada

Western North American Naturalist
By:  and 

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Abstract

Human activity may mimic predation risks for wildlife by causing abandonment of foraging sites and increasing expenditure of energy. Animals that can tolerate nonlethal disturbance may minimize these fitness costs. We examine this aspect of the risk—disturbance hypothesis by first analyzing recent habitat use of desert bighorn sheep relative to areas of attraction and disturbance. We then compare and contrast sheep responses to differing levels of anthropogenic disturbance between 2 time periods, 30 years apart. Desert bighorn sheep were tolerant of suburban activity when a consistent forage resource (municipal grass) was provided. Males were more tolerant than females, and females returned to natural, steep areas during the birthing season. Increased recreation activity, specifically mountain bike use, may have resulted in avoidance by sheep of otherwise suitable habitat that had been occupied decades earlier, thereby reducing availability of limited habitat. Tolerance increased only when attractiveness was relatively high and decreased as perceived fitness decreased, supporting risk—disturbance theory.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Tolerance to disturbance regulated by attractiveness of resources: A case study of desert bighorn sheep within the River Mountains, Nevada
Series title Western North American Naturalist
DOI 10.3398/064.077.0109
Volume 77
Issue 1
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 17 p.
First page 82
Last page 98
Country United States
State Nevada
Other Geospatial River Mountains
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