This material is published by Journal of Mammalogy (2016,gyw179. doi: 10.1093/jmammal/gyw179).

Ranging behavior and habitat selection of pacas (Cuniculus paca) in central Belize

Said M. Gutierrez, Bart J. Harmsen, C. Patrick Doncaster, Elma Kay and Rebecca J. Foster

Habitat loss and fragmentation present major challenges for wildlife conservation since connectivity between suitable habitat patches is needed for dispersal, allowing for genetic exchange between populations. These exchanges can be particularly important in marginal habitats as they ensure the persistence of populations that are often most vulnerable to natural occurrences or anthropogenic activities. Medium-sized mammals can be particularly susceptible to changes in the landscape and their absence can be an indicator of habitat degradation. In this study, 6 pacas (Cuniculus paca), medium-sized mammals that are an important prey of large felids and a popular game species for hunters in Belize, were radio-tracked in the Central Belize Corridor. Home range estimates for these were larger than those documented for pacas inhabiting broadleaf forests of Panama and Costa Rica. When broadleaf habitats were inaccessible due to flooding, pacas preferred a savannah habitat with dense vegetation over more open grass savannahs. Knowledge of how pacas and other wildlife use the landscape in the wildlife corridor will allow more effective management by guiding the development of adequate regulations for hunting and resource exploitation.

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