Movement ecology of mature white-tailed deer in northern Pennsylvania


Project overview:

Although spatial use and movement ecology of white-tailed deer has received much attention in past research, little work has focused on these factors as they relate to mature (≥ 3 years old) males, probably because they traditionally accounted for the smallest portion of many deer populations.  Over the past 15 – 20 years, however, strategies that emphasize management for mature males (e.g., quality deer management) have increased in popularity in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  In addition, the use of global positioning system (GPS) collars, due to their increased accuracy and ability to collect ≥12 locations/hr, has provided new insights into the ecology of both male and female deer.  Despite these changes in management strategies and wildlife telemetry technology, few studies have investigated the movement ecology of mature, male white-tailed deer.  Of those that have been conducted, results vary widely among regions.  Thus, we propose to use GPS collars to concurrently investigate the effects of season, environmental factors, and hunting pressure on home range and core area size, fine-scale temporal movements, and habitat selection of mature males in northern Pennsylvania.  Results of this research hold implications for understanding home range use and movement ecology of mature males and guidelines for maximizing success of management strategies that attempt to increase representation of this segment in white-tailed deer populations.

Project objectives:

We will use GPS collar technology to study spatial and movement ecology of mature (≥3.5 years) male white-tailed deer in northern Pennsylvania.  Our objectives are to (1) document and compare fine-scale temporal movements during breeding and hunting seasons, (2) examine differences in habitat selection among seasons and between hunted versus non-hunted periods within a season, (3) determine the effects of short (e.g., temperature, precipitation, wind speed, etc.) and long-term (e.g., snowpack and mast crop) environmental factors on movements and habitat selection, and (4) investigate the effects of season and environmental factors on home range and core area size.

Principle investigators:  Andy Olson and William Gulsby