Effects of human activity on the habitat utilization of Himalayan marmot (Marmota himalayana) in Zoige wetland
Human activity is increasingly and persistently disturbing nature and wild animals. Affected wildlife adopts multiple strategies to deal with different human influences. To explore the effect of human activity on habitat utilization of Himalayan marmot (Marmota himalayana), habitat utilization patterns of three neighboring marmot populations in habitats affected differently by human activities were recorded and compared. We found that (a) distance between reproductive burrows (a represent of reproductive pairs) becomes shorter under the influence of human activities, and more burrows were dug as temporary shelters, resulting in shorter distance between those shelters and shorter distance flee to those shelters and, consequently, shorter flight initiation distance when threatened. More burrows that are closer to the disturbed habitats improve the ability to escape from threats. (b) Reproductive burrow site selection of the species is determined by the availability of mounds in the habitat, and breeding pairs selectively build reproductive (also the hibernation) burrows on mounds, potentially to improve surveillance when basking and the drainage of burrows. Human activities generally drive breeding pairs away from the road to dig their reproductive burrows likely to reduce disturbance from vehicles. However, even heavy human activity exerts no pressure on the distance of reproductive burrows from the road or the mound volume of the high disturbance population, potentially because mounds are the best burrowing site to reproduce and hibernate in the habitat. Marmots deal with disturbance by digging more burrows in the habitat to flee more effectively and building reproductive burrows on mounds to gain better vigilance and drainage efficiency.