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Dispersal, home range fidelity, and vulnerability of white-tailed deer in the Missouri River Valley

Kurt C VerCauteren, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


I radiotracked 76 female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the Missouri River Valley (MRV) of Nebraska and Iowa for 43,555 deer-days from February 1991 to February 1998. Seventy-one percent $(n=54)$ were residents of DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR) and 29% $(n=22)$ were transients. Of transients, 10 returned to DNWR seasonally and 12 established permanent home ranges away from the refuge. Fecundity was similar on and off the refuge $(\bar x=1.2$ fawns/doe). Winter densities were higher on the refuge (19 deer/km$\sp2)$ than off (5 deer/km$\sp2).$ The onset of female dispersal took place at the same time each year $(\bar x=13$ May, $F\sb4=0.24,\ P=0.91)$ and is likely related to photoperiod. Spring green up, agricultural activities, and availability of protective winter cover did not stimulate deer to leave DNWR. Deer population structure and dynamics appear to be driven more by social interactions than first expected. The external stimuli I examined played a role in initiating these behaviors and, along with social behavior, warrant further investigation. Survival was high ($\ge$0.75) for adults and juveniles, residents and transients. DNWR allowed muzzleloader deer hunting, which accounted for 77% of the mortality on the refuge. Away from the refuge, hunting was the cause of 58% of the deaths. Human-related mortality factors (hunting, vehicles, and poaching) led to 82% of resident deaths and 100% of transient deaths. This new information on environmental and human-related factors that impact deer movements and survival will facilitate wise and timely management decisions that will aid in the fulfillment of local and regional population goals.

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Recommended Citation

VerCauteren, Kurt C, "Dispersal, home range fidelity, and vulnerability of white-tailed deer in the Missouri River Valley" (1998). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9908488.