Abstract

Title:  Survival and Cause-specific Mortality of White-tailed Deer Fawns on Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana
Author(s): Rebecca M. Shuman - Daniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia; Michael J. Chamberlain - Daniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia; John C. Kilgo - USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station; Michael J. Cherry - Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center; Elizabeth A. Cooney - Daniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia; Taylor N. Simoneaux - Daniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia; Karl V. Miller - Daniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia
Year: 2016
Abstract: Linking demographic parameters, such as fawn survival, to habitat attributes is important to understand and manage sustainable white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations. Changing predator communities in parts of the Southeast have resulted in increased interest in factors influencing fawn survival. Notably, little research has been conducted in areas with 3 sympatric fawn predators such as coyotes (Canis latrans), black bear (Ursus americanus), and bobcat (Lynx rufus). During 2013-15, we captured 70 fawns with the aid of vaginal implant transmitters on Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Louisiana and monitored fawns every 8 hours until 6 weeks of age and daily until 12 weeks of age. We assigned cause of death by using field and DNA evidence. Kaplan-Meyer survival to 12 weeks was 0.271 (95% CI: 0.185-0.398). Of the 51 mortalities, 45 (88%) were attributed to predation, 4 (8%) to starvation, 1 (2%) to natural causes, and 1 (2%) to unknown causes. We used an information theoretic approach to compare Cox proportional hazards models containing various combinations of biological and habitat covariates. Our best supported model contained sex, mass at birth, and distance to cropland, young reforestation (planted 2000-09), and old reforestation (planted 1985- 89). Based on hazard ratios, female fawns had a higher probability of survival than males, and survival increased with mass at birth, which may be indicative of greater maternal investment. Survival increased with distance from cropland and young reforestation, and decreased with distance from old reforestation, which may be a result of spatial variation in predator densities.

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