This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Spatial Ecology of Male White-Tailed Deer in the Crosstimbers and Prairies Ecoregion




Holtfreter, Robert

Type of Degree



Forestry and Wildlife Sciences


We examined daily movement paths of radio-collared male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) during the breeding season (Oct. 1st- Dec. 15th), from 1995-1997, at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant (McAAP) in southeastern Oklahoma. Results indicate that male white-tailed deer become increasingly active throughout the breeding season, with progressively dispersed daily movement patterns. Juvenile males were highly active prior to the peak of the breeding season when adult and mature male breeding effort was limited. We suggest this behavior may increase juvenile male reproductive fitness by increasing their likelihood of breeding does coming into estrous prior to the peak of the breeding season when competition with older males may be limited. Results additionally suggest that older males suppress the breeding efforts of juveniles when breeding competition peaks. We additionally investigated spatial fidelity of male white-tailed deer (n= 52) to successive annual (1 Oct - 30 Dec) home range and core-use areas from 1995-1997. In addition to little (= 50%) overlap between annual core area boundaries, male deer shifted centers of activity by = 742 m at the core-use scale, independent of age class. Results suggest that internal home range dynamics in space use, among male deer of all ages, are more influential in landscape usage over time than estimates of overlap at the home range scale. We also describe relationships between a suite of landscape metrics and home range sizes of male white-tailed deer (n = 72). We additionally tested the hypothesis that a combination of landscape metrics, representing spatial heterogeneity, can explain variation in home range size among male white-tailed deer. Deer exhibited mean home ranges of 643 ha and mean core areas of 112 ha. Results suggest that where habitat patches are small, highly diverse, and evenly distributed, male white-tailed deer have small home ranges. Results also indicate that home ranges are small where edge density is high. Our best model of spatial heterogeneity explained 28% of the variability in home ranges size at the 1000 meter scale, indicating that male deer perceive their environment at a spatial scale intermediate between mean home range and core-use areas. These results highlight the importance of considering core areas when space by white-tailed deer is of interest.