Few studies of sexual segregation in ruminants have tested widely invoked mechanisms of segregation in mixed-sex groups. In a sexually segregated population of Roosevelt elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti), we examined if adult males had reduced intake of forage when in mixed-sex groups and if intersexual differences in aggression caused females to avoid males. Based on a mechanistic model of forage intake, animals with lower instantaneous feed intake should have higher cropping rates. Focal animal sampling indicated that adult males and females in summer and winter had similar cropping rates in mixed-sex groups, whereas males in male-only groups had lower rates of cropping than males in mixed-sex groups. Outside the mating season, males in male groups spent proportionally less time ≤1 body length of congenders than females in female groups, and the rate of aggression ≤1 body length was higher for males. Female–female aggression was higher in mixed-sex groups that contained more males than the median proportion of males in mixed-sex groups. Female and mixed-sex groups walked away when groups of males numbering >6 were ≤50 m but did not walk away when male groups ≤50 m had ≤5 individuals. Sexual segregation was associated with behaviors of sexes in mixed-sex groups: reduced intake of forage by males and increased female–female aggression with more males.
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