It remains unclear if patterns of habitat use are driven by animals moving to and increasing residency time in selected areas, or by animals simply returning frequently to selected areas. We studied a population of North American elk (Cervus elaphus) in the Chequamegon National Forest, Wisconsin, to examine how spatial and temporal factors influence residency time in localized areas. We used global positioning system telemetry data from 7 elk and addressed 2 questions. First, does residency time vary as a function of spatial and temporal factors and if so does that relationship vary with measurement scale? Second, can residency time in the summer be predicted by a resource-selection map previously constructed for this population? Cross validation demonstrated that the statistical models had very poor predictive strength of independent data, which indicates that the explanatory variables have very little influence on elk residency time. Resources are patchily distributed on this landscape, and results demonstrate that elk preferentially use areas with high resource-selection function values. Unexpectedly, residency time was unrelated to values of resource-selection functions, which indicates that elk do not slow down in preferred areas. We conclude that patterns of elk habitat use are not driven by residency time but by elk returning frequently to favorable areas on the landscape. Random residency times may be a behavioral mechanism to lower predictability on the landscape and reduce predation risk.
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