Date of this Version
Does Human Predation Risk Affect Harvest Susceptibility of White-Tailed Deer During Hunting Season? By A.R. Little, S. Demarais, K.L. Gee, S.L. Webb, S.K. Riffell, J.A. Gaskamp, J.L. Belant. 9 pages, 3 figures. 2014.
Published in Wildlife Society Bulletin 38:4 (2014), pp 797–805.
Large carnivores are considered a primary source of mortality for many ungulate populations, but harvest by hunters is the primary means of population management. However, research is needed to evaluate how human predation risk influences observability (a surrogate to harvest susceptibility) of ungulates. We determined how hunting intensity and duration influence observation rates of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and how deer behavior (i.e., movement rate and resource selection) affects observation rates. We sampled 37 adult (≥2 yr) male deer at 2 levels of risk (i.e., low-risk = 1 hunter/101 ha; and high-risk = 1 hunter/30 ha) during 3 exposure periods (i.e., first, second, and third weekend of hunting) on a 1,861-ha property in Oklahoma, USA, during the 2008 and 2009 rifle deer-seasons. Observation rates (collared deer/hunter-hr/day) were greatest during the first weekend in both the low- and high-risk treatments, but declined each weekend thereafter in both treatments. Immediately prior to hunter observation, movement rate of observed collared deer was greater than that of unobserved collared deer, but only when hunting risk was high. Greater movement rates of deer in the high-risk treatment also led to a greater probability of observation. Hunters also had a greater probability of observing collared deer at higher elevations. Overall, deer modified their behavior to avoid detection by hunters. These results can be used to explain decreased observation rates to hunters and to modify harvest rates by altering timing and intensity of human predation risk during the recreational hunting season to help achieve population management goals through harvest.