Space use of woodchucks across an urbanization gradient within an agricultural landscape

Elizabeth W. Lehrer, Robert L. Schooley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rapidly increasing urbanization creates novel environmental conditions for mammals even in already human-dominated, agricultural landscapes. Previous research on the behavioral responses of mammals to urbanization has focused on carnivores. Herbivores may respond to similar factors as carnivores, but herbivores also could respond to landscape alterations that generate variation in predation risk. We examined movements of 35 radiomarked, adult woodchucks (Marmota monax) located across an urbanization gradient within an agricultural landscape in central Illinois from 2007 to 2008. As predicted, home-range size was related negatively to urbanization. Home-range size of woodchucks in urban areas was ∼10% of that of rural woodchucks. Urbanization had stronger effects on home-range sizes of males compared to females. Woodchucks are multiple central-place foragers, and their use of burrows within home ranges also was influenced by urbanization, with number of burrows per individual decreasing with urbanization. Because number of burrows was not scaled proportionally to home-range size, however, distances between burrows decreased in urban areas, and predation risk during interburrow movements should be reduced for urban woodchucks. Our results demonstrate the ability of woodchucks to exhibit substantial behavioral plasticity in response to urbanization and provide insights into how space use by multiple central-place foragers relates to predation risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1342-1349
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 16 2010


  • Marmota monax
  • burrow
  • central-place forager
  • home range
  • movements
  • space use
  • urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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