8. Richmond, I.C., Balluffi­-Fry, J., Vander Wal, E., Leroux, S.J., Rizzuto, M., Heckford, T.R., Kennah, J.L., Riefesel, G.R., Wiersma, Y.F. (2021) Individual snow­shoe hares manage risk differently: Integrating stoichiometric distribution models and foraging ecology. Journal of Mammalogy, gyab130.


Herbivores making space use decisions must consider the trade-off between perceived predation risk and forage quality. Herbivores, specifically snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus), must constantly navigate landscapes that vary in predation risk and food quality, providing researchers with the opportunity to explore the factors that govern their foraging decisions. Herein, we tested predictions that intersect the risk allocation hypothesis (RAH) and optimal foraging theory (OFT) in a spatially explicit ecological stoichiometry framework to assess the trade-off between predation risk and forage quality. We used individual and population estimates of snowshoe hare (n = 29) space use derived from biotelemetry across three summers. We evaluated resource forage quality for lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), a common and readily available forage species within our system, using carbon:nitrogen and carbon:phosphorus ratios. We used habitat complexity to proxy perceived predation risk. We analyzed how forage quality of blueberry, perceived predation risk, and their interaction impact the intensity of herbivore space use. We used generalized mixed effects models, structured to enable us to make inferences at the population and individual home range level. We did not find support for RAH and OFT. However, variation in the individual-level reactions norms in our models showed that individual hares have unique responses to forage quality and perceived predation risk. Our finding of individual-level responses indicates that there is fine-scale decision-making by hares, although we did not identify the mechanism. Our approach illustrates spatially explicit empirical support for individual behavioral responses to the food quality-predation risk trade-off.

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