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Social environment shapes female settlement decisions in a solitary carnivore

Citation

Hansen, Jenny et al. (2021), Social environment shapes female settlement decisions in a solitary carnivore, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.8pk0p2np5

Abstract

How and where a female selects an area to settle and breed is of central importance in dispersal and population ecology as it governs range expansion and gene flow. Social structure and organization have been shown to influence settlement decisions, but its importance in settlement of large, solitary mammals is largely unknown. We investigate how the identity of overlapping conspecifics on the landscape, acquired during the maternal care period, influences selection of settlement home ranges in a non-territorial, solitary mammal using location data of 56 female brown bears (Ursus arctos). We used a resource selection function to determine whether females’ settlement behavior was influenced by presence of their mother, related females, familiar females, and female population density. Hunting may remove mothers and result in socio-spatial changes prior to settlement. We compared overlap between settling females and their mother’s concurrent or most recent home ranges to examine the settling female’s response to the absence or presence of her mother on the landscape. We found that females selected settlement home ranges that overlapped their mother’s home range, familiar females, i.e. those they had previously overlapped with, and areas with higher density than their natal ranges. However, they did not select areas overlapping related females. We also found that when mothers were removed from the landscape, female offspring selected settlement home ranges with greater overlap of their mother’s range, compared with mothers who were alive. Our results suggest that females are acquiring and using information about their social environment when making settlement decisions