Multi-scale habitat assessment of pronghorn migration routes

Andrew F. Jakes, Nicholas J. DeCesare, Paul F. Jones, C. Cormack Gates, Scott J. Story, Sarah K. Olimb, Kyran E. Kunkel, Mark Hebblewhite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We studied the habitat selection of pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) during seasonal migration; an important period in an animal’s annual cycle associated with broad-scale movements. We further decompose our understanding of migration habitat itself as the product of both broad- and fine-scale behavioral decisions and take a multi-scale approach to assess pronghorn spring and fall migration across the transboundary Northern Sagebrush Steppe region. We used a hierarchical habitat selection framework to assess a suite of natural and anthropogenic features that have been shown to influence selection patterns of pronghorn at both broad (migratory neighborhood) and fine (migratory pathway) scales. We then combined single-scale predictions into a scale-integrated step selection function (ISSF) map to assess its effectiveness in predicting migration route habitat. During spring, pronghorn selected for native grasslands, areas of high forage productivity (NDVI), and avoided human activity (i.e., roads and oil and natural gas wells). During fall, pronghorn selected for native grasslands, larger streams and rivers, and avoided roads. We detected avoidance of paved roads, unpaved roads, and wells at broad spatial scales, but no response to these features at fine scales. In other words, migratory pronghorn responded more strongly to anthropogenic features when selecting a broad neighborhood through which to migrate than when selecting individual steps along their migratory pathway. Our results demonstrate that scales of migratory route selection are hierarchically nested within each other from broader (second-order) to finer scales (third-order). In addition, we found other variables during particular migratory periods (i.e., native grasslands in spring) were selected for across scales indicating their importance for pronghorn. The mapping of ungulate migration habitat is a topic of high conservation relevance. In some applications, corridors are mapped according to telemetry location data from a sample of animals, with the assumption that the sample adequately represents habitat for the entire population. Our use of multi-scale modelling to predict resource selection during migration shows promise and may offer another relevant alternative for use in future conservation planning and land management decisions where telemetry-based sampling is unavailable or incomplete.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0241042
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12 December
StatePublished - Dec 2020


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