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Data from: Impacts of human disturbance on large prey species: do behavioral reactions translate to fitness consequences?


Leblond, Mathieu; Dussault, Christian; Ouellet, Jean-Pierre (2013), Data from: Impacts of human disturbance on large prey species: do behavioral reactions translate to fitness consequences?, Dryad, Dataset,


Anthropogenic disturbances have been demonstrated to affect animal behavior, distribution, and abundance, but assessment of their impacts on fitness-related traits has received little attention. We hypothesized that human activities and infrastructure cause a decrease in the individual performance of preys because of anthropogenically enhanced predation risk. We evaluated the impacts of commercial logging and road networks on the fitness of a large herbivore known to be sensitive to human disturbance: the forest-dwelling woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou). For 8 consecutive years (2004–2011) we monitored 59 individuals using GPS telemetry in the Charlevoix region of Québec, Canada. We also used Very High Frequency telemetry locations collected on 28 individuals from 1999–2000. We related habitat selection of adult caribou at various spatio-temporal scales to their probability of dying from predation, and to indices of their reproductive success and energy expenditure. The probability that adult caribou died from predation increased with the proportion of recent disturbances (including cutblocks ≤5 years old) in their annual home range. The respective effects of increasing paved and forestry road densities depended upon the overall road density within the home range of caribou. At a finer scale of 10 to 15 days before their death, caribou that were killed by a predator selected for recent disturbances more than individuals that survived, and avoided old mature conifer stands. The home range area of caribou increased with road density. Finally, the composition of the home range of females had no effect on their reproductive success. We show that human activities and infrastructure may influence the individual performance of large prey species in highly managed regions. We outline the need to consider the full set of impacts that human development may have on threatened animal populations, with particular emphasis on predator-prey relationships and population dynamics.

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