The first density estimates of a peripheral guanaco population and its habitat use at different spatial scales are presented for a protected area of Monte desert, Argentina. Transects were surveyed in the wet and dry seasons of 2005. All guanaco herds observed during systematic surveys using roads and tracks were GPS located and their habitat use was identified. Herd size differed significantly between the dry and wet seasons. Population densities differed between wet (0.10–0.12 individuals/km2) and dry seasons (0.60–0.75 individuals/km2). The population estimates ranged from 75 individuals (dry season) to 388 individuals (wet season). Guanacos showed differential habitat use, the first determinant being abiotic factors, such as topography, soil characteristics or microclimate conditions, animals being detected in rougher rocky substrata in the dry season and in open flat terrain in the wet season, followed by a mesoscale selection defined by plant communities. At the latter scale, guanaco preferentially used mixed creosote bushland and saltbush more intensively during the wet season, and open scrub and columnar-cactus slopes in the dry season. The estimated population of this protected area was small but its population density was within the range of other populations and was relatively high for this dry and unproductive area.
©2010 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin New York