Assessing migration strategies and cause specific mortality of adult female White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in North Dakota, USA
Keywords:migration, mortality, Northern Great Plains, Odocoileus virginianus, survival, white-tailed deer
Life-history characteristics of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) have been documented in areas of the Northern Great Plains, but limited information is available in grassland dominated regions. We documented migration strategy, home range use, and survival of adult female White-tailed Deer in central North Dakota. We monitored 62 radio-collared adult (>1.5 year-old) female White-tailed Deer from February 2010 to December 2012. We documented 86 summer home ranges and classified deer as resident, migratory, or exhibiting a late season movement. Mean migration distance between non-overlapping summer and winter home ranges was 11.76 km (SE 0.86, n = 21). Mean late season movements were 20.69 km (SE 2.94, n = 7) and were likely the result of deer exhausting food resources throughout winter. We also developed five competing models that represented variation in survival among time periods (e.g., pre-hunt, hunt, and post-hunt in 2010 and 2011). Our top model indicated that survival (S) was similar between hunt 2010 and post-hunt 2011 periods but was lower (S = 0.82; SE 0.04, 95% CI 0.73–0.89) than the remaining time periods (S = 0.97; SE 0.01, 95% CI 0.93–0.99). Our results suggest that deer migration strategies and survival are likely influenced by a combination of winter severity and food availability. Mortalities attributed to hunter harvest were low during our study, which may indicate that increased recreational opportunities could be made available, even after severe winters.
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