Effect of winter conditions on wild ungulates mortality in the Owl Mountains (Poland)
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Relations between climatic factors during the winter season (n days with frost <0oC and –10oC; n days with snow cover: >1 cm, >10 cm and >30 cm; maximum snow cover during season [cm]) and mortality in free-living ungulates (red deer Cervus elaphus Linnaeus, 1758, roe deer Capreolus capreolus Linnaeus, 1758 and mouflon Ovis aries musimon Linnaeus, 1758) in the Owl Mountains (Lower Silesia – Poland) in years 1998–2010 were investigated. Significant effects of all analysed climatic factors on ungulates mortality were documented. Correlations (Pearson) between such weather factors as the depth of snow cover and number of days with frost and recorded mortality in total animal populations analysed ranged from r = 0.33 to r = 0.77. The least adapted to local weather conditions was mouflon introduced to this area ca. 100 years ago from more southern parts of Europe. Roe deer species seems to be environmentally plastic, and are doing quite well in severe winters. Tolerance of red deer to the snow cover is much lower at low temperatures due to the fact that this species, during the period of snow cover, has limited access to the plants covered with snow and difficult access to food base.
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