Abstract

Title:  White-tailed Deer Habitat: Effects of Deer Density and Supplemental Feeding
Author(s): Timothy E. Fulbright, Charles A. DeYoung, David G. Hewitt, Reagan Gage, Eric Grahmann, Ryan Darr, Garrett Timmons, Aaron Foley – Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute; Don A. Draeger–Comanche Ranch
Year: 2007
Abstract: We initiated a long-term research project on the Comanche and Faith Ranches in South Texas in 2003 to determine effects of deer density and supplemental feeding on white-tailed deer and their habitat. On each ranch, we built 6 high-fenced, 200-acre enclosures. These 6 enclosures are divided into 3 density pairs—2 enclosures have high deer densities (40 deer); 2 have medium deer densities (25 deer); and 2 have low deer densities (10 deer). Deer are added or removed to maintain densities as near the target density as possible. For each pair of enclosures with a given density, one is supplementally fed with 2 feeders containing pelleted feed in the center of the enclosure and one is not supplementally fed. Vegetation canopy cover and biomass are estimated annually during summer. Browse and forb canopy cover and biomass, and forb species richness were similar (P > 0.05) in supplementally fed and unfed enclosures, averaged across data collected during summer 2004-2006. High density enclosures supported lower (P < 0.05) forb species richness and canopy cover than low density enclosures. Deer density had no significant (P > 0.05) effect on canopy cover of highly palatable browse species or unpalatable browse species. Canopy cover of moderately palatable browse species was less (P < 0.05) in high density enclosures than in low density enclosures. Browse biomass was similar (P > 0.05) among deer densities. Increasing deer density appears to impact vegetation similarly with and without supplemental feeding.

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