Ecologists have long sought to identify environmental and ecological traits influencing space use by individuals. Prey availability, habitat type, conspecific interactions, and sex are cited as determinants of carnivore spatial behavior, although empirical evidence of relationships between variables and home-range size are rare. We examined the relative importance of different ecological factors on the spatial behavior of Pallas's cats (Otocolobus manul), mesocarnivores native to the montane steppes of central Asia. Between 2005 and 2007 we estimated home-range size for 9 male and 16 female Pallas's cats. Cats used large and variable home ranges, with male home ranges 4–5 times the size of female ranges. Contrary to predictions, home-range size did not increase in response to low prey availability or seasonality. Smaller home ranges were associated with higher coverage of preferred rocky habitats in the home-range center, whereas larger home ranges were associated with higher connectivity of rocky habitats in the periphery of home ranges. This suggests that space use by Pallas's cats is a function of sex and is mediated by the distribution and availability of habitats. Because of interspecific predation pressure experienced by Pallas's cats, we argue that their spatial behavior originates from trade-offs between accessing food and maintaining proximity to habitats that provide cover from predators.
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Vol. 93 • No. 5