Behavioral responses of wolves to roads: scale-dependent ambivalence
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionZimmermann, B., Nelson, L., Wabakken, P., Sand, H., & Liberg, O. (2014). Behavioral responses of wolves to roads: scale-dependent ambivalence. Behavioral Ecology, 12. doi: 10.1093/beheco/aru134 10.1093/beheco/aru134
Throughout their recent recovery in several industrialized countries, large carnivores have had to cope with a changed landscape dominated by human infrastructure. Population growth depends on the ability of individuals to adapt to these changes by making use of new habitat features and at the same time to avoid increased risks of mortality associated with human infrastructure. We analyzed the summer movements of 19 GPS-collared resident wolves (Canis lupus L.) from 14 territories in Scandinavia in relation to roads. We used resource and step selection functions, including >12000 field-checked GPS-positions and 315 kill sites. Wolves displayed ambivalent responses to roads depending on the spatial scale, road type, time of day, behavioral state, and reproductive status. At the site scale (approximately 0.1 km2), they selected for roads when traveling, nearly doubling their travel speed. Breeding wolves moved the fastest. At the patch scale (10 km2), house density rather than road density was a significant negative predictor of wolf patch selection. At the home range scale (approximately 1000 km2), breeding wolves increased gravel road use with increasing road availability, although at a lower rate than expected. Wolves have adapted to use roads for ease of travel, but at the same time developed a cryptic behavior to avoid human encounters. This behavioral plasticity may have been important in allowing the successful recovery of wolf populations in industrialized countries. However, we emphasize the role of roads as a potential cause of increased human-caused mortality.