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Movement Patterns of the Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) in Four Fragmented Landscapes of Prince Edward Island, Canada

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Document pages: 28 pages

Abstract: The analysis of animal movement patterns can provide important information on animals’ responses to habitat features. In this study, the movement paths of eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) were examined in four landscapes, with different levels of habitat fragmentation, using either fluorescent powdering or spool-and-line tracking. Descriptions of the tree and ground vegetation communities were performed in the vicinity of the trail to obtain information on habitat use and habitat selection. Several key movement variables were calculated, including the total path length, net distance, fractal dimension, and radius of gyration. Despite statistically significant differences in some of the movement metrics between the four landscapes, the overall movement patterns were generically the same for all of chipmunk paths examined in this study. The data were compared to trends expected based on random or correlated random walks, as well as Lévy-walk models. The mean squared net displacement did not support the correlated random walk predictions, except at smaller spatial scales, but overall demonstrated Lévy-like super diffusive behaviour. Lévy-like patterns were also confirmed from the move-length distributions that demonstrated truncated-tail power-law behaviour. Although this would suggest invariance of the movement patterns at all spatial scales studied, fractal analysis revealed at least two transitions in movement patterns at scales of around 2 and 5 m. The transition point at 2 m was negatively correlated with the density of small trees, while the transition at ~5 m was positively correlated with the spatial distribution of large trees. As the habitat-preference data showed that small trees are among the least preferred habitat component, while large trees were among the most preferred habitat, chipmunks are likely to alter their movement behaviour to avoid small trees, and attracted towards large trees possibly to avoid predators. Overall, we determined three principal domains of movement: at smaller spatio-temporal scales, foraging activities dominate and the movement is highly correlated but also random; at intermediate spatial scales, chipmunks may be moving to avoid predators, using different environmental cues, and the movement is more directed (but still influenced by vegetation patterns at intermediate scales); at larger spatio-temporal scales, the movement is dominated by long-range long-term memory and homing to burrows and other key habitat features, such as food caches, drives more directed movement. The fact that scale-dependent movement mechanisms could give rise to LW patterns is consistent with recent studies.

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