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Predator-prey interactions are dynamic and complex with implications for predators, prey, and entire ecological communities. Though predation has obvious mortality costs for prey, equally strong non-consumptive impacts of predation have been the focus of recent studies. Not only are prey affected by their predators through both consumption and fear of predation, but predators are driven by selection to respond to prey behavior. Here, we show how habitat decisions made by highly mobile predators and prey are dynamically linked. In our study system, recreational hunters (predators) make decisions about where to hunt based on a variety of resources (potential prey abundance, proximity to home) and we show that hunters preferentially select hunting locations where the density of primary habitat for their prey, the Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus clochicus), is greatest despite other resources (roads, towns). Targeted habitat selection by hunters as well as distinct periods of prey availability due to regulated hunting seasons create a spatially and temporally variable environment of predation risk in which prey are capable of responding. Female pheasants increased their home range size and shifted the center of their core home range in response to high risk at the onset of the hunting season. However, these responses diminished over time. Male mortality during the first few weeks of the hunting season further confirmed the short-term impacts of high hunting pressure early in the season, though this effect diminishes over time with hunting having compensatory mortality effects on pheasant populations by the close of the hunting season. Our data demonstrate factors influencing both predator and prey habitat decisions and give a more holistic view of a predator-prey interaction with implications for wildlife managers concerned with maintaining healthy populations of both predator and prey.
Advisor: Joseph J. Fontaine