[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT:
The size of an individual's home range is an important feature, influencing reproduction and survival, but it can vary considerably among both populations and individuals. The factors accounting for such variation are still poorly understood, and comprehensive long-term field studies considering various environmental factors that influence home range size are rare. We investigated the effects of seasonality, availability of food, cover, number of direct neighbours and the relative individual body mass on home range sizes in 125 adult female striped mice, Rhabdomys pumilio, in South Africa from 2004 to 2008. We used radiotelemetry to estimate home range sizes, trapping to determine the number of direct neighbours, and plant surveys in every home range to determine availability of food and cover. Home ranges were smaller when food quantity was high, many territorial neighbours were present, females had a relatively small body mass and during the nonbreeding season. We conclude that the availability of food resources and intraspecific competition are the main factors influencing home range size in female striped mice. Females enlarged their home ranges when territorial neighbours were few, and there was a significant positive correlation between home range size and quantity of food plants. This indicates that home range size might not reflect the minimal trade-off between access to resources that allow for a female's survival and lowest cost for defending and foraging in that area. Instead, we propose a hypothesis for future research that female striped mice occupy areas several times larger than needed to improve their fitness by providing resources for future offspring.