Influence of natal habitat preference on habitat selection during extra-home range movements in a large ungulate

Nathan D. Hooven, Matthew T. Springer, Clayton K. Nielsen, Eric M. Schauber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Natal habitat preference induction (NHPI) occurs when animals exhibit a preference for new habitat that is similar to that which they experienced in their natal environment, potentially leading to post-dispersal success. While the study of NHPI is typically focused on post-settlement home ranges, we investigated how this behavior may manifest during extra-home range movements (EHRMs), both to identify exploratory prospecting behavior and assess how natal habitat cues may influence path selection before settlement. We analyzed GPS collar relocation data collected during 79 EHRMs made by 34 juvenile and subadult white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) across an agricultural landscape with highly fragmented forests in Illinois, USA. We developed a workflow to measure multidimensional natal habitat dissimilarity for each EHRM relocation and fit step-selection functions to evaluate whether natal habitat similarity explained habitat selection along movement paths. Across seasons, selection for natal habitat similarity was generally weak during excursive movements, but strong during dispersals, indicating that NHPI is manifested in dispersal habitat selection in this study system and bolstering the hypothesis that excursive movements differ functionally from dispersal. Our approach for extending the NHPI hypothesis to behavior during EHRMs can be applied to a variety of taxa and can expand our understanding of how individual behavioral variation and early life experience may shape connectivity and resistance across landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9794
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • dispersal
  • excursion
  • habitat selection
  • landscape connectivity
  • movement
  • natal habitat preference induction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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