Movement ecology of white-tailed deer in the central Appalachians of West Virginia
Campbell, Tyler Adam
MetadataShow full item record
Ecologists and natural resource managers recognize that white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) can alter processes in forested ecosystems. Data about potential solutions to these ecological problems are limited. Several studies have proposed a non-traditional approach to managing locally abundant white-tailed deer populations. However, outside of the proposing authors, localized management has received little scientific evaluation. Herein, I present baseline white-tailed deer movement data to help assess the feasibility of using localized management to enhance forest regeneration in the central Appalachians. I used Clover traps and rocket nets to capture white-tailed deer during the winters of 1999-2002 on the MeadWestvaco Wildlife and Ecosystem Research Forest (MWWERF) in West Virginia. I captured 343 deer; females were the dominant sex class, comprising 76% of all captures. Adult male deer were notably scarce, representing only 2% of all captures. Using radio-telemetry, I monitored the movements of 148 female and 43 male deer during April 1999-July 2002. Adult female winter home range size was larger than summer or fall. Female deer were philopatric, with home range and core area overlap being less in fall than summer or winter. Dispersal occurred in 1 of 28 (3.6%) fawns and no female deer =1 year old dispersed. Yearling male annual mortality rates for human-induced and natural mortality were 0.63 (SD = 0.09) and 0.12 (SD = 0.12), respectively. Within yearling females, annual mortality rates for human-induced and natural mortality were 0.09 (SD = 0.06) and 0.05 (SD = 0.03), respectively. To assess deer impacts to forest regeneration processes, I sampled 810 1-m 2 plots in or adjacent to regenerating clearcuts. Plots in the adjacent mature forest had less woody browse than clearcut plots. Elevation (wi = 0.823) and distance to mature forest (wi =0.177) were more important than site index and plot-type in predicting browsing pressure in regenerating clearcuts. The survival, mortality, capture, and reproductive data I observed are characteristic of a population shaped by moderate fawn recruitment and excessive harvest of yearling male deer. I recommend a reduction in female deer to promote forest regeneration and maximize biodiversity in this region. I believe this can best be achieved by liberalizing antlerless harvest regulations, through hunter education, and through corporate landowner incentive programs. Behaviors of female white-tailed deer on the MWWERF meet the a priori assumptions of localized management. I assert that experimental manipulations based on localized management concepts could be applicable in high-density herds in the central Appalachians.