Diet Content and Overlap of Sympatric Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Moose (Alces alces), and Elk (Cervus elaphus) During a Deep Snow Winter in Northcentral British Columbia, Canada

Posted on Jun 25, 2013

Author

Dexter P. HODDER, Roy V. REA, and Shannon M. CROWLEY

Correspondence: Dexter P. Hodder, John Prince Research Forest, P.O. Box 2378, Fort St. James, BC, Canada, V0J 1P0 Email: dexter@johnprinceresearchforest.com

Received 3 April 2013 — Accepted 25 June 2013


Abstract

Diet content and overlap have been used extensively to index and compare resource use among sympatric herbivores. In this study, we looked at diet content and overlap among Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Elk (Cervus elaphus) and Moose (Alces alces) on Mule Deer winter range areas in north-central British Columbia, Canada. We used micro-histological analyses of fecal pellet samples to assess diet content. Using multivariate analysis of variance to compare differences in forage class composition among ungulate species and Pianka’s formula to calculate diet overlap, we found that Mule Deer and Moose primarily foraged on different types of conifers while Elk mostly utilized deciduous shrubs in winter. Our findings suggest that there is low diet overlap among the three species (Mule Deer vs. Elk = 31.4%; Mule Deer vs. Moose = 24.1%; and Elk vs. Moose = 11.3%) possibly indicating that a diet niche separation is occurring on Mule Deer winter ranges in north central British Columbia. Although these findings seem to suggest low competition among these large herbivores, further research on spatial and temporal use of winter ranges by these ungulates is required before solid conclusions can be made.

Key Words: Alces alces, British Columbia, Cervus elaphus, diet overlap, Elk, fecal analysis, Moose, Mule Deer, Odocoileus hemionus, sympatric, ungulate, winter range.

 

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