Changes in habitat composition and structure along natural agricultural habitat gradient affect spatial ecology of carnivores at both intraspecific and interspecific levels. An important prerequisite for the conservation and management of habitat specialists is a sound understanding of how they use indigenous habitats within fragmented landscapes. We present the 1st comprehensive study on home range, overlap, and resource selection of 16 radiocollared servals (Leptailurus serval) in the Drakensberg Midlands, South Africa. Servals (11 males and 5 females) were livetrapped and radiotracked between May 2013 and August 2014 covering 4 seasons (winter, spring, summer, and autumn). Mean annual home range estimates (95% and 50% fixed kernel [FK], respectively) for males (38.07 km2; 8.27 km2) were generally larger than for females (6.22 km2; 1.04 km2). Although male core ranges varied slightly in spring, overall serval home ranges were stable across seasons. There was considerable intersexual home range overlap (> 85%), whereas intrasexual overlap was rare (< 10%). Home range size decreased with increase in age and less availability of wetland, while it increased in males at both levels (95% FK and 50% FK). For both sexes, Manley's selection index indicated that natural habitats including wetlands and forest with bushland ranked higher than all other habitat classes. However, forested habitat was used approximately 2 times more frequently by males than females whereas cropland was avoided by both sexes. Overall, wetlands were ranked highest, followed by forest with bushland, grassland, plantations, and cropland in terms of serval resources selection. Our results emphasize that natural habitats, mainly wetlands and forests with bushland, are important predictors of spatiotemporal habitat use of servals in the agricultural mosaics of South Africa.
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Vol. 97 • No. 2