Ecological theory predicts that the intensity of anti-predator responses is dependent upon the spatio-temporal context of predation risk (the “risk allocation hypothesis”). However, most studies to date have been conducted over small spatial extents, and did not fully take into account gradual responses to the predator proximity. We collected spatially explicit data on predator and prey simultaneously to investigate acute responses of a threatened forest ungulate, the boreal caribou (Rangifer tarandus), to the spatio-temporal dynamics of wolf (Canis lupus) distribution during spring. Movement analysis of GPS-collared individuals from both species revealed high plasticity in habitat selection decisions of caribou. Female caribou avoided open areas and deciduous forests and moved relatively fast and towards foraging areas, when wolves were closer than 2.5 km. Caribou also avoided food-rich areas only when wolves were within 1 km. Our results bridge the gap between long-term perceived risk and immediate flight responses by revealing dynamic anti-predator tactics in response to predator proximity.
Reference: Basille M., Fortin D., Dussault C., Bastille-Rousseau G., Ouellet J.-P. & Courtois R. (2015) Plastic response of fearful prey to the spatio-temporal dynamics of predator distribution. Ecology, 96:2622–2631. DOI: 10.1890/14-1706.1