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Data from: Food quality, security, and thermal refuge influence use of microsites and patches by pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) across landscapes and seasons

How intensely animals use habitat features depends on their functional properties (i.e., how the feature influences fitness) and the spatial and temporal scale considered. For herbivores, habitat use is expected to reflect the competing risks of starvation, predation, and thermal stress, but the relative influence of each functional property is expected to vary in space and time. We examined how a dietary and habitat specialist, the pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis), used these functional properties of its sagebrush habitat—food quality, security, and thermal refuge—at two hierarchical spatial scales (microsite and patch) across two seasons (winter and summer). At the microsite and patch scales, we determined which plant functional traits predicted the number of bites (i.e., foraging) by pygmy rabbits and the number of their fecal pellets (i.e., general habitat use). Pygmy rabbits used microsites and patches more intensely that had higher crude protein and aerial concealment cover and were closer to burrows. Food quality was more influential when rabbits used microsites within patches. Security was more influential in winter than summer, and more at Cedar Gulch than Camas. However, the influence of functional properties depended on phytochemical and structural properties of sagebrush and was not spatiotemporally consistent. These results show function-dependent habitat use that varied according to specific activities by a central-place browsing herbivore. Making spatially explicit predictions of the relative value of habitat features that influence different types of habitat use (i.e., foraging, hiding, thermoregulating) will improve how we predict patterns of habitat use by herbivores and how we monitor and manage functional traits within habitats for wildlife.

Ancillary Data
This dataset was derived from or used data products provided by the following datasets and manuscripts:
Chemistry Data: Sorensen Forbey, J., Olsoy, P., Robb, B., Fremgen-Tarantino, M. R., & Nobler, J. D. (2022). Compiled Idaho sagebrush chemistry and plant herbivore interaction data [Data set]. University of Idaho.
UAS Data: Olsoy, P., Burgess, M., Sorensen Forbey, J., Rachlow, J., Shipley, L., & Thornton, D. (2022). Unoccupied aerial systems imagery from Camas, Cedar Gulch and Rocky Canyon Idaho [Data set]. University of Idaho.
PatchType Rasters: Olsoy, P., Sorensen Forbey, J., Shipley, L., Rachlow, J., Robb, B., Nobler, J., & Thornton, D. (2022). Data from: Mapping foodscapes and sagebrush morphotypes with unmanned aerial systems for multiple herbivores [Data set]. University of Idaho.
Structural Data (Volume and Aerial Concealment): Olsoy, Peter J. et al. (2018), Data from: Unmanned aerial systems measure structural habitat features for wildlife across multiple scales, Dryad, Dataset,
Thermal refuge data: Derived from Raw UAS data following methods and equations found in

Data Use
License: CC-BY
Recommended Citation: Olsoy, P., Milling, C., Nobler, J. D., Camp, M. J., Shipley, L. A., Rachlow, J., & Thornton, D. H. (2022). Data from: Food quality, security, and thermal refuge influence use of microsites and patches by pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) across landscapes and seasons [Data set]. University of Idaho.

Release Date
Spatial / Geographical Coverage Area
POLYGON ((-114.35388 44.796898, -114.35388 43.180083, -113.18686 43.180083, -113.18686 44.796898))
POINT (-113.289869 44.699597)
POINT (-114.317528 43.242182)
Spatial / Geographical Coverage Location
Idaho (USA)
Temporal Coverage
Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - 00:00 to Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 00:00
English (United States)
Peter J. Olsoy, Charlotte R. Milling, Jordan D. Nobler, Meghan J. Camp, Lisa A. Shipley, Jennifer Sorensen Forbey, Janet L. Rachlow and Daniel H. Thornton
Contact Name
Peter Olsoy
Contact Email
Public Access Level
Data available on:: 
Saturday, April 30, 2022