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Status and distribution of red panda outside the protected area are poorly explored in Nepal despite of occupying the large share of potential red panda habitat. This study attempted to identify the factors affecting distribution and habitat association of red panda in Bhojpur district, Nepal. Bhalukhola Forest Patch, Kholakharka Forest Patch and Silichung Forest Patches were selected as intensive study sites. Altitudinal line intercepts method and sign surveys were applied to determine the distribution of red panda along different elevations. Quadrate method was implemented to explore the habitat association of the species. Twenty-four altitudinal transects each of 1,000 m on every 100 m altitude were surveyed following contour lines from the elevation of 2,400 m to 3,550 m. All the data were analysed by using Microsoft Excel 2016, ArcGIS 10.4 and Past 3.26 Software. Generalized Linear Model (GLM) was used to assess the influence of elevation and habitat parameters (predictor variables) with presence of red panda i.e. pellet frequency (response variable). Red panda was confirmed in all the surveyed forest patches between 2,700 m to 3,000 m altitude. In addition, 44 tree species were documented from red panda sign plots, out of which most common was Pinus roxburghii (77.39), Rhododendron arboretum (29.35), Tsuga dumosa (28.51) and Rhododendron grande (22.06). Based on the habitat association analysis, GLM revealed that elevation (R2=0.23), bamboo canopy cover (P˂ 0.01), tree canopy cover (P˂ 0.01), bamboo density (P˂ 0.01), and distance to settlement (P˂ 0.01) were positively associated with red panda presence. Likewise, tree height (P˂ 0.01), distance to water source (P˂ 0.01) and DBH of tree (P˂ 0.01) were negatively associated. The most preferred aspect was found to be North-West (31%) with the average slope of 30o. Tree branches were mostly used substrate by the red panda for defecation (56.36%). Mostly used tree species for defecation was Hymenodictylon excelsum (26%). This study has provided vivid information about the presence of red panda in one of the potential regions outside protected area. Further research should be conducted to find out distribution pattern, abundance and association of red panda with different habitat characteristics throughout the Bhojpur district.
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