Date of this Version
Peterson BC, Koupal KD, Schissel, AK and Siegel CM. (2015) Longevity of Mineral Supplements within the Soil and Associated Use by White-Tailed Deer. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences 35 (2015), pp. 61-67.
Humans have baited wildlife such as white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) for generations with the primary purpose of increasing hunting harvest success. Baiting regulation changes are often considered by state management agencies as they pertain to hunting opportunity, fair chase, and disease risk. Cervids require a variety of minerals to supplement biological processes, especially sodium (Na), calcium (Ca), and phosphorus (P). We developed artificial mineral supplement sites set in front of trail cameras to monitor deer use. Pooled soil samples were collected at mineral sites and compared to the surrounding area to determine the longevity of elevated minerals levels within the soil seasonally. Mineral sites showed significantly higher Na, P, and pH levels 230 days from the final mineral augmentation as compared to the surrounding control sites. May through October camera captures, were categorized as “use of” or “pass-through” on each mineral site. Site use and duration of use were identified for each sex and quantified monthly as well as non-hunting and hunting periods. We found doe use ranged from 0.29-1.00 per camera day and was highest during May and August while buck use ranged from 0.13-0.99 per camera day and was highest during May and June. We found does were 2.7 times more likely and bucks 4.0 times more likely to use mineral sites during non-hunting periods than hunting periods. The highest duration of mineral site use occurred in August (2.7 ± 0.3 min/doe and 3.2 ± 0.5 min/buck) and the lowest duration of use occurred in September (1.8 ± 0.3 min/doe and 1.1 ± 0.1 min/buck) and October for both does and bucks (1.0 ± 0.0 min). Despite significantly elevated Na and P levels at mineral sites compared to control sites during the hunting period, both frequency and duration of use for does and bucks decreased. Results from this study indicate, though soil nutrients remained elevated, mineral attractiveness and/or mineral deficiencies were less in September and October (coinciding with the start of hunting season) as does wean fawns and bucks antlers harden. Results from our study can be used by game managers and wildlife regulating agencies as they make decisions regarding baiting practices.