Title:  Predator Exclusion as a Management Option for Increasing White-tailed Deer Recruitment
Author(s): Mike Conner - Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center; Michael J. Cherry - Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center; Brandon T. Rutledge - Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center; Charlie H. Killmaster - Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Gail Morris - Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center; Lora Smith - Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center
Year: 2015
Abstract: Lethal control of coyotes (Canis latrans) may increase white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) recruitment, but lethal control can be difficult to implement and may be ineffective on small parcels of land. In 2003, we constructed 4, approximately 40 ha mesopredator exclosures to quantify the influence of mesopredators on select wildlife populations. Following construction, both hunter success and neonate:adult female ratios increased, suggesting that mesopredator exclusion positively impacted the deer herd in the vicinity of the exclosures. Simulation analyses indicated that predator exclosures provided an additional 20 ± 0.39 (mean ± SE; median = 17, IQR = 11 - 25) recruits/year above that expected without exclusion. Assuming a 1600 ha area, simulated neonate:adult female ratio was 0.77±0.009 (median = 0.75, IQR = 0.57–0.95) with exclosures and 0.41±0.008 (median = 0.39, IQR = 0.21–0.58) without. Difference in recruitment with and without exclosures was negatively correlated (r = -0.425) with neonate survival outside exclosures and positively correlated (r = 0.632) with white-tailed deer preference for predator exclosures during the parturition season. Predator exclosures may be particularly valuable for reducing fawn predation on small parcels of land. Finally, fear associated with predation risk can significantly impact prey population dynamics, and predator exclusion also appears capable of mitigating these impacts. Additional research that incorporates variation in exclosure size and deer density is needed to better evaluate management efficacy of predator exclosures for creating fawn refugia.

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