Movement, Activity, and Habitat Use of Adult Male White-tailed Deer at Chesapeake Farms, Maryland


Despite extensive research on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) specific research on the impacts of seasonal changes and climatic factors on movement, activity, and habitat use of adult males managed under a Quality Deer Management (QDM) philosophy is lacking. This research focused on movement, activity, and habitat use of adult male white-tailed deer on a privately owned 1,330-ha agricultural/wildlife research farm under QDM since 1994. Eighteen adult males were fitted with global positioning system (GPS) radio telemetry collars that provided detailed data of movement, activity, and habitat use in relation to seasonal changes and climatic factors. I looked for changes in seasonal patterns of adult males during four 3-week intervals between September and December. Seasonal changes focused primarily on pre-breed, breed, and post-breed periods predetermined by fawning data. Impacts of climatic factors focused on precipitation, barometric pressure, temperature, and lunar cycles and were analyzed using multiple regression (PROC MIXED, SAS, 2001) with repeated measures and random effects. Habitat selection was determined from GPS positional data overlaid on geographic information system (GIS) maps of Chesapeake Farms and calculated using compositional analysis (Aebischer et al. 1993). Mean home range was 299.6 ha with breed (298.6 ha, F6, 80 = 3.95, P = 0.006) and pre-breed2 (285.5 ha, F6, 80 = 3.95, P = 0.007) ranges being significantly larger than summer (114.7 ha). Breed (46.9 ha, F6, 80 = 4.15, P = 0.014) and pre-breed2 (46.7 ha, F6, 80 = 3.95, P = 0.008) core areas were also significantly larger than summer (13.8 ha). Intensity of use ranged from 12% during summer to 16.7% during post-breed with a mean of 14.8%. Adult males increased movement and activity from summer to the breed season with a subsequent decrease during post-breed. Average daily movement during the breed season (4 km .25 km) was significantly higher than during pre-breed1 (F6,485 = 40.32, P < 0.001). Relative activity during the breed season was significantly higher than during pre-breed1 and post-breed (F6,487 = 15.22, P < 0.001). Period of day and temperature were the most consistent predictors of adult male movement and activity across all seasons. Diel movement and activity fluctuated across seasons, but was generally lowest during daytime. Adult male movement and activity was inversely related to temperature. Cultivated vegetation was the predominant cover type used during August and September. Use of cultivated vegetation decreased post-harvest with woodlands more selected through December. Adult males selected closed habitats during the day and open habitats at night. Crop phenology influenced movement in addition to breeding. Behavior of adult males will vary across the landscape with the onset of rutting behavior and seasonal changes in habitat availability. Understanding this behavior is the foundation for understanding how to address issues (i.e., human-deer conflicts and harvest strategies) surrounding the sustainable use of deer populations.



Quality Deer Management, white-tailed deer, activity, Odocoileus virginianus, habitat use, movement, compositional analysis, breeding, Chesapeake Farms, adult male





Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences