2020 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Deer-vehicle collisions are a major transportation hazard, but factors affecting deer escape decision-making in response to vehicle approach remain poorly characterized. We made opportunistic observations of deer response to vehicle approach during daylight hours on a restricted- access facility in Ohio, USA (vehicle speeds were ≤64 km/h). We hypothesized that animal proximity to the road, group size, vehicle approach, and ambient conditions would affect perceived risk by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) to vehicle approach, as measured by flight-initiation distance (FID). We constructed a priori models for FID, as well as road-crossing behavior. Deer responses were variable and did not demonstrate spatial or temporal margins of safety. Road-crossing behavior was slightly and positively influenced by group size during winter. Deer showed greater FIDs and likelihood of crossing when approached in the road; directionality of approach likely increased the perceived risk. These findings are consistent with antipredator theory relative to predator approach direction.
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