Reindeer Rangifer tarandus tarandus husbandry in Sweden commonly uses the Scandinavian mountain chain as grazing area during the snow-free season and the coniferous forests in the east during winter. Current knowledge of habitat use by reindeer is primarily based on traditional or local knowledge, or on investigations carried out on wild reindeer and caribou in other parts of the world. We identified spatial and temporal habitat use of free-ranging semi-domesticated reindeer by following 48 GPS-equipped reindeer in three summer ranges in the Swedish reindeer herding area. The GPS equipment registered positions every hour or every second hour, during two snow-free seasons. The GPS-collared reindeer were randomly chosen from herds with several thousand animals. Estimated home-range utilisation distributions were used to fit resource utilisation functions (RUFs) including various topographical features, vegetation types, and the vicinity to water and hiking trails. The GPS-equipped reindeer used different parts of the range throughout the snow-free season. Preferred vegetation types were consistently meadows, grass heaths, and other heaths. Avoided vegetation types were all types of forests, sparsely vegetated areas, and bare rocks. The reindeer were seemingly indifferent to hiking trails within their home ranges, which, however, usually coincided with preferred vegetation types, but they avoided areas with houses and holiday huts during early summer. Later in the season, the reindeer preferred higher elevated areas where human constructions were sparse. The home ranges of the GPS-equipped reindeer overlapped considerably during early parts of the season, indicating a dense use of the range by the entire herds. Crowding within the herds appeared to make individual reindeer select non-optimal habitats. However, in our study, we found a nonsignificant tendency of less predictable individual home ranges when there were large range overlaps. Vegetation types, direction of slopes, time within the season and the possibilities of avoiding insect harassment appear to be key factors for predicting valuable reindeer habitats in novel areas in a land management context.
2008. Vol. 14, 1-15 p.