Movement patterns of a specialist predator, the weasel Mustela nivalis exploiting asynchronous cyclic field vole Microtus agrestis populations

Miriam J. Brandt, Xavier Lambin

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We investigated habitat selection and movement characteristics of male weasels Mustela nivalis Linnaeus, 1766 during the breeding season through radio-telemetry in Kielder Forest (KF) in order to assess how weasel movement is influenced by prey dynamics, mate searching and predation risk, and whether the scale of weasel movement corresponds to the spatial scale of the asynchronous, multi-annual vole population cycles observed in KF. Weasels used habitats with a high proportion of grass cover to a much larger extend than habitats with less grass cover and moved through the latter habitats faster and / or straighter. Habitats with high amounts of grass cover also had the highest field vole abundance, although total rodent abundance did not differ between habitats. The selection of this habitat by weasels might reflect weasels preferring field voles as prey or avoiding habitats with little grass cover and high intraguild predation risk. Five out of 8 male weasels radio-tracked had low day-to-day site fidelity and moved between different clear cuts. Three other males were resident in a single clear cut. This variation may reflect mate searching by male weasels. The observation that most weasels (5 out of 8) roamed over large areas and the scale of their dispersal potential suggests, that if they regulated vole populations, they should have a greater synchronising effect on the spatial scale of vole population dynamics than what is observed in vole populations in KF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-25
Number of pages13
JournalActa Theriologica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007


  • Mustela nivalis
  • population cycles
  • predation
  • home range
  • movement
  • weasel
  • home-range
  • traveling-waves
  • prey abundances
  • dynamics
  • hypothesis
  • synchrony
  • survival
  • erminea
  • England
  • rodents

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