Competition for mates, cub rearing, and other behaviors differ between males and females in large carnivores. Although these differences can be reflected in patterns of habitat use, gender has rarely been incorporated into habitat models. We evaluated differences in habitat use between male and female jaguars in the Mayan Forest of the Yucatan Peninsula by modeling occupancy as a function of land cover type, distance to roads, and sex. Nested models were fitted to high-spatiotemporal resolution satellite (GPS) telemetry, controlled for temporal autocorrelation, and eliminated selection bias of pseudo-absences using a semi-non-parametric bootstrap. Although both male and female jaguars prefer tall forest, short forest was also preferred by females but avoided by males. Whereas females significantly avoided roads, males didn’t and ventured into low-intensity cattle ranching and agriculture. Females’ preference for intact forests and against roads led to their habitat being fragmented to a greater degree than that of males. Models that ignored sexual differences failed to capture the effect of roads and agriculture on jaguar habitat use, blurred the distinction of use between short and tall forest, and underestimated fragmentation of female jaguar habitat; but incorporating these differences increased precision of habitat maps and allowed the identification of potential jaguar-human conflict areas associated with male’s use of cattle and agricultural lands. Specifying sex differences increases the power of habitat models to understand landscape occupancy by large carnivores, and so greater attention should be paid to these differences in their modeling and conservation.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Sep 1, 2010
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