Patterns of Stress and Suitability of Camera Surveys for White-Tailed Deer
Type of Degreethesis
Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
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We collected fecal samples to examine stress levels in a fenced population of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). The purpose of the study was to determine how stress levels fluctuated throughout the breeding season, if there was a difference between males and females, and if levels in a high density, fenced population differed from those in a free-ranging environment. Fecal glucocorticoid levels of males peaked during the rut, while those in females remained relatively stable throughout the breeding season. When we compared glucocorticoid levels of the fenced population with a free-range population, we found conflicting results across the two years of the study. Remote photography is increasing in its popularity as a tool for scientists and wildlife biologists. Camera surveys have been used to estimate population parameters among a variety of species. However, this survey technique involves placing bait in front of the camera in order to capture animals more frequently, which could introduce biases in parameter estimates. We monitored cameras placed at random, along game trails, and at feed stations to determine if sex/age structure could be accurately assessed in a population of white-tailed deer. Our results indicated that there was no single time period in which cameras placed at feed stations provided sex ratio and recruitment estimates similar to those acquired from randomly placed cameras. Trail-based camera surveys provided population estimates very similar to those from random sites, and may provide a feasible alternative to using baited camera stations.