Foraging on the Edge of Chaos

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Contribution to Book

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Grazing Behavior of Livestock and Wildlife

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The foraging behavior of herbivores may appear to be little more than the idle wanderings of animals in search of food and a place to rest. A closer look reveals a sophisticated process by which herbivores survive in a tremendously complex, dynamic, and unpredictable habitat. How do creatures of habit, survive in a world where the only certainty is change? Most do fairly well despite the difficulties they encounter. These predica- ments arise because climate, soils, plants, herbivores, and people are interrelated facets of a dynamic system. Con- tinuous change demands that each component of the system continually react and adapt. This dynamic mi- lieu causes problems for individuals which are inflex- ible but, adaptive behavioral processes can turn nature from an adversary to an ally. Animals face several challenges in selecting foods and habitats in which to live. How animals cope with change, make foraging decisions, and overcome dilem- mas they encounter illustrate behavioral processes as old as life. Understanding that variety is the spice of life and that adaptive behaviors allow old dogs to learn new tricks, can give natural resource managers new tools to help animals deal with dynamic environments and cre- ate more desirable environments. In short, understand- ing the behavioral processes that allow animals to deal with their daily foraging crises, can help us to bette

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