Date of this Version
Journal of Zoology 294 (2014) 241–247. doi:10.1111/jzo.12174.
Habitat selection for calving by ungulates is an important behavioral trait because it affects neonate survival. Generally, ungulate calving site selection varies by vulnerability to predators, local topography, habitat quality and level of human disturbance. The Mongolian saiga (Saiga tatarica mongolica) is endemic to Mongolia where a threatened population of ∼7000 exists in the northern Gobi Desert. We analyzed factors that could affect selection of saiga calving locations in the Sharga Nature Reserve, western Mongolia, using data obtained from ground surveys over 4 years between 2008 and 2012. Multiple factors explain calving location selection by saiga antelopes, based on the results of a generalized linear mixed model within a use availability framework. Individual saiga females preferred calving locations that were away from settlements and closer to water sources and avoided steeper slopes in comparison with random locations. These results demonstrate that the choice of calving locations for saiga antelope is driven by both internal and external factors. Understanding which factors influence calving location selection for saiga provides insights to protect important habitats.