Temperature shapes movement and habitat selection by a heat-sensitive ungulate

Jesse M. Alston, Michael J. Joyce, Jerod A. Merkle, Ron A. Moen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: Warmer weather caused by climate change poses increasingly serious threats to the persistence of many species, but animals can modify behavior to mitigate at least some of the threats posed by warmer temperatures. Identifying and characterizing how animals modify behavior to avoid the negative consequences of acute heat will be crucial for understanding how animals will respond to warmer temperatures in the future. Objectives: We studied the extent to which moose (Alces alces), a species known to be sensitive to heat, mitigates heat on hot summer days via multiple different behaviors: (1) reduced movement, (2) increased visitation to shade, (3) increased visitation to water, or (4) a combination of these behaviors. Methods: We used GPS telemetry and a step-selection function to analyze movement and habitat selection by moose in northeastern Minnesota, USA. Results: Moose reduced movement, used areas of the landscape with more shade, and traveled nearer to mixed forests and bogs during periods of heat. Moose used shade far more than water to ameliorate heat, and the most pronounced changes in behavior occurred between 15 and 20 °C. Conclusions: Research characterizing the behaviors animals use to facilitate thermoregulation will aid conservation of heat-sensitive species in a warming world. The modeling framework presented in this study is a promising method for evaluating the influence of temperature on movement and habitat selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1961-1973
Number of pages13
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Many thanks to B. Olson, W. Chen, and others who helped collect field data, as well as J. Rick, B. Brito, F. Molina, B. Maitland, S. Esmaeili, and J. Goheen for providing helpful comments on early drafts of this manuscript. This study was funded by Minnesota's Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the University of Minnesota-Duluth Integrated Biosciences graduate program, and the University of Wyoming Department of Zoology and Physiology.


  • Climate change
  • Habitat selection
  • Habitat use
  • Lidar
  • Moose (Alces alces)
  • Resource selection
  • Step-selection function
  • Thermal refugia

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