Experimental evidence of spatial memory and home range affinity in White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Michael E. Nelson


The role of spatial memory in the movement of animals through landscapes remains elusive. To examine spatial memory and home range affinity of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in northeastern Minnesota during 1995–2007, I translocated 17 adult does with known home ranges to unfamiliar sites and radio-tracked them after their release. Twelve does wearing transmitting radio-collars returned to their home ranges. Death and collar expiration precluded determination of whether the remaining five does would have returned to home ranges. Three of five does wearing global positioning system collars traveled throughout hundreds of square kilometres, circling, backtracking, and returning to release sites, while two others exhibited directional movement for tens of kilometres. Four does that survived to parturition stopped traveling and moved at hourly rates similar to those of control does during the first three weeks of the typical fawn-rearing period, but continued traveling later. Their aberrant extensive travel before and after interruption by parturition suggests that they recognized they were in unfamiliar areas, demonstrating both their capacity and propensity to search for and occupy the familiar space of their individual home ranges. Their successful return to home ranges provided experimental evidence of spatial memory and further elucidated its pervasive role in White-tailed Deer spatial ecology.


experimental translocation; home range; movements; Odocoileus virginianus; spatial affinity; spatial memory; White-tailed Deer

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22621/cfn.v129i1.1661

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