Red deer exhibit spatial and temporal responses to hiking activity

Solène Marion, Urska Demsar, Althea Davies, Philip A. Stephens, Justin Irvine, Jed Long

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Outdoor recreation has the potential to impact the spatial and temporal distribution of animals. We explore interactions between red deer Cervus elaphus and hikers along a popular hiking path in the Scottish Highlands. We placed camera traps in transects at different distances (25, 75 and 150 m) from the path to study whether distance from hiker activity influences the number of deer detected. We compared this with the detection of red deer in an additional, spatially isolated area (one km away from any other transects and the hiking path). We collected count data on hikers at the start of the path and explored hourly (red deer detection during daytime), daily, diurnal (day versus night) and monthly spatial distributions of red deer. Using generalized linear mixed models with forward model selection, we found that the distribution of deer changed with the hiking activity. We found that fewer red deer were detected during busy hourly hiking periods. We found that during daytime, more red deer were detected at 150 m than at 25 m. Moreover, during the day, red deer were detected at a greater rate in the isolated area than around the transects close to the path and more likely to be found close to the path at night. This suggests that avoidance of hikers by red deer, in this study area, takes place over distances greater than 75 m and that red deer are displaced into less disturbed areas when the hiking path is busy. Our results suggest that the impact of hikers is short-term, as deer return to the disturbed areas during the night.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberwlb.00853
JournalWildlife Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2021


  • Camera traps
  • Outdoor activity
  • Recreation interaction
  • Spatio-temporal distribution
  • Ungulate


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