Title page for ETD etd-04142009-092649

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Thayer, Justin W.
Author's Email Address Jthaye1@tigers.lsu.edu
URN etd-04142009-092649
Title Population Characteristics of a White-Tailed Deer Herd in a Bottomland Hardwood Forest of South-Central Louisiana
Degree Master of Science (M.S.)
Department Renewable Natural Resources
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Michael J. Chamberlain Committee Chair
Frank C. Rohwer Committee Member
Scott Durham Committee Member
William E. Kelso Committee Member
  • telemetry
  • Odocoileus virginianus
  • home range
  • space use
  • core area
  • survial
  • mortality
  • bottomland hardwood forest
  • white-tailed deer
  • cause-specific mortality
Date of Defense 2009-04-03
Availability unrestricted
White-tailed deer are an important economic and recreational resource in Louisiana. A basic understanding of population dynamics is essential to ensure sound management, but baseline information in Louisiana is lacking. Likewise, the notion of Quality Deer Management (QDM) continues to gain momentum in Louisiana. Our objectives were to evaluate space use, survival, and mortality for a deer herd managed under a QDM regime in south Louisiana.

We captured 65 deer in West Baton Rouge and Iberville Parishes during 2007 and 2008, radio-marked 37 males and 11 females, and ear-marked an additional 10 males and 7 females. Home ranges (95%) for adult males during spring, summer, and fall were 153.9, 70.4, and 118.0 ha, respectively and were 119% and 68% larger during spring and fall than summer. Female home ranges were 67.3, 53.9, and 25.2 ha during spring, summer, and fall, respectively. Juvenile (1.5 yr-old) males increased space use 169% in spring (231.6 ha) relative to summer (86.1 ha), and maintained 50% larger home ranges than adults in spring.

Survival estimates for adult males during spring, summer, and fall were 100, 95, and 55%, respectively. Mean annual survival for adult males was 53%. No mortalities were observed in spring or summer for 1.5 yr-old males, but ear-tag returns and harvest records indicated 1.5 yr-old males were being harvested at a rate approaching 20%. Mean annual mortality rates from harvest (40%) were greater than for non-harvest sources of mortality (16%). Non-hunting mortality included both natural causes (9%) and deer-vehicle-collisions (9%).

We observed smaller home ranges than anticipated or seen previously, suggesting that landowners managing small (<300 ha) tracts of property may be able to practice QDM at scales thought to be ineffective at improving herd dynamics. Due to low non-hunting mortality, young males (≤2.5-yr) are likely to survive to the next age class if protected from harvest, but ultimately have a small chance of reaching maturity (5.5+) because males are generally harvested as they approach the antler restriction in place. Managers should seek to increase fall survival for males if management objectives include increasing the frequency of harvesting males ≥3.5 yrs-old.

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