Date of this Version
Scientific Reports | 7: 15234 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-15482-7.
Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) populations in the western United States provide many benefits to local economies but can also cause considerable damage to agriculture, particularly damage to lucrative crops. Limited information exists to understand resource selection of mule deer in response to annual variation in crop rotation and climatic conditions. We tested the hypothesis that mule deer select certain crops, and in particular sunflower, based on annual climatic variability. Our objective was to use movements, estimates of home range, and resource selection analysis to identify resources selected by mule deer. We used annually-derived crop-specific datasets along with Global Positioning System collars to monitor 14 mule deer in an agricultural area near public lands in southwestern Colorado, USA. We estimated home ranges for two winter seasons that ranged between 7.68 and 9.88 km2, and for two summer seasons that ranged between 5.51 and 6.24 km2. Mule deer selected areas closer to forest and alfalfa for most periods during 2012, but selected areas closer to sunflower in a majority of periods during 2013. Considerable annual variation in climate patterns and precipitation levels appeared to influence selection by mule deer because of variability in crop rotation and success of germination of specific crops.