The South Florida Deer Study was a multifaceted research collaboration involving UGA, the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Conservancy of Southwest Florida (Conservancy), and the National Park Service (NPS). Deer are a primary food source for the endangered Florida panther. We investigated deer populations in Bear Island and North Addition Land Units of Big Cypress National Preserve, and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. These study sites were selected based on the availability of historical data, presence of Global Positioning System (GPS)-collared Florida panthers, existing camera grids, and variation in hydrology and hunting regulations.
The goal of this project was to gain a better understanding of the factors that influence white-tailed deer population trends in South Florida and to develop methods for monitoring deer. This project includeded research completed by several former UGA Deer Lab students as part of their graduate studies.
The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge of South Florida cycles between dry and wet seasons. Fluctuating water levels affect deer use of the landscape and make it a very challenging place to conduct deer research.
We are thankful for GPS technology, which allows us to collect frequent deer location and movement data without having to perform on-the-ground tracking of collared deer.
Through the multiple years of this study, we have learned much about how deer use the landscape during different seasons and how they modify their behaviors to minimize predation risk by Florida panthers, bobcats and black bears.