Abstract

Title:  A Low-Cost GPS Solution for Studying Spatial Ecology of White-Tailed Deer Fawns
Author(s): Michael J. Cherry - Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia; Dana J. Morin - Virginia Polytechnic and State University; Robert J. Warren - Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia; L. Mike Conner - Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, Newton, GA
Year: 2014
Abstract: Understanding spatial ecology of white-tailed deer fawns is increasingly important given changing predator dynamics in the southeastern USA. Researchers have long suggested that movement behavior and fine-scale resource selection may directly influence fawn survival, however those aspects fawn spatial ecology remain poorly understood. Investigating fine-scale spatial ecology of fawns using VHF technology requires researchers to repeatedly approach fawns, potentially affecting fawn and/or predator behavior, and influencing the process under study. The use of GPS technology has revolutionized the study of wildlife, yet high-costs associated with commercially available GPS transmitters, made for tracking wildlife, often result in inadequate sample size to make inference at the population level. Therefore we modified ATS expandable VHF fawn collars by affixing a low-cost CatTracker GPS unit (Catnip Technologies, Ltd. Anderson, SC) encased in a protective predator sleeve made of polyvinyl chloride pipe. The total cost of the GPS unit and all materials for attachment were $55/collar. In 2011, we deployed 6 modified GPS collars on fawns at the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, in southwestern, Georgia. We recovered data from 3 collars; the remaining units were unrecovered due to loss of VFH signal. We developed utilization distributions from hourly relocation data collected from three fawns using biased random bridges to demonstrate an analytical approach that capitalizes on high frequency relocation data. We suggest low-cost GPS have great potential in wildlife research and provide a new opportunity to investigate the spatial ecology of white-tailed deer fawns.

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