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Red deer behavioural response to hiking activity: a study using camera traps

Marion, S. and Demšar, U. and Davies, A.L. and Stephens, P.A. and Irvine, R.J. and Long, J.A. (2022) 'Red deer behavioural response to hiking activity: a study using camera traps.', Journal of Zoology .


With increasing levels of outdoor recreation activities, consequences for wildlife through interactions with recreationists are highly variable. Behavioural changes in wildlife are one potential consequence of interactions with outdoor recreationists. In ungulate populations, vigilance and flight responses are well-known antipredator behaviours. An increase in their level indicates a more intense stress level which, ultimately, can have consequences for animal fitness. In Scotland, the geographical distribution of red deer (Cervus elaphus) overlaps greatly with areas used for popular outdoor activities such as hill walking. In this research, we study red deer time allocation, vigilance, and flight behaviours near a popular hiking path using camera traps. We positioned the cameras in transects at different distances (25m, 75m and 150m) from the path and recorded hiking activity using an automated people counter. Red deer behaviour was categorized from photo analysis as (1) no response (e.g., feeding, resting), (2) vigilant (i.e., upright head position), and (3) flight response. We also investigated demographic variables (group size, sex) and the direction of red deer movement relative to the trail. We used generalised linear mixed models to analyse behaviour in relation to the distance from the hiking track, hiking activity, time of the day, demographic, and environmental variables. We did not find an increase in vigilance or flight behaviour in relation to the distance from the hiking path or the hiking activity. These results suggest that red deer, in our study area, are habituated to the presence of hikers and may spatially avoid areas close to the hiking path instead of displaying cost-intensive behaviour (i.e., flight or vigilance behaviour).

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
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Publisher statement:© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Zoology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Zoological Society of London This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Date accepted:28 March 2022
Date deposited:31 March 2022
Date of first online publication:25 April 2022
Date first made open access:28 June 2022

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