Where do hinds range in the high country?

Where do hinds range in the high country?

Red deer breeding hinds each establish a specific home range, which often overlaps with others, and they also use certain preferred types of vegetation within large hill and high-country calving paddocks.

 hind tracking map Haycocks Station

Figure 2: Haycocks Station GPS tracked hind ranges are identified by different colours. Lighter shaded areas in each home range represent areas more intensively used by each hind. Vegetation types: pasture (light green), scrub (dark green), and tussock (tan).

Each hind occupies a relatively small proportion of the paddock area (<15%) that defines their preferred home range, typically 5-30 ha over the calving period (Fig 2).

Larger, and probably the more dominant, hinds inhabit a very similar home range each year(see Fig 3). The strong hierarchical nature of red deer means that when new breeding hinds are mixed into an existing mob, the entire mob should be given time to establish a new ‘pecking order’ and to enable each hind to find a home range that fits within with this pecking order. Providing this ‘settling in time’ especially before calving will reduce the extent that hinds roam across the paddocks, reducing the extent of inter-hind disturbances, which has been shown to be important for obtaining high calf survival rates.

 

 hind 374's Whiterock home range 08/09 and 09/10

 Figure 3: Home range (outlined as 95% core area) used by GPS tracked Hind 374 at Whiterock Station during calving and lactation in 2008/09 and 2009/10. Several observed behavioural patterns indicated this hind was a larger more dominant hind in the breeding herd. Lighter shaded areas represent more intensively used areas within the hind’s home range.

Hind home ranges span a wide range of paddock elevations, hill slopes, and cover a mixture of pasture, tussock, and scrub vegetation to varying extents (Fig 2) but pasture (the most nutritious and easily digestible herbage) is usually the dominant vegetation type in a hind’s home range (Fig 4).

This is likely to be especially important over late pregnancy and during lactation when high energy and protein feed intake levels are required by the hinds.

high country hind vegetation type preferences

Figure 4:  Hind core occupancy area (COA) vegetation usage. Haycocks Station and Whiterock Station data combined.

The availability of a variety of habitats is important to a hind when selecting its home range.