Title:  Survival and Cause-specific Mortality of Adult White-tailed Deer on Public and Private Lands
Author(s): Kevyn H. Wiskirchen, Auburn University; Todd C. Jacobsen, Auburn University; Stephen S. Ditchkoff, Auburn University; Steve Demarais, Mississippi State University; James B. Grand, U.S. Geological Survey
Year: 2017
Abstract: The importance of science-based decision-making within natural resource management is now widely recognized. With regards to the management of white-tailed deer, regional estimates of survival and cause-specific mortality are valuable for guiding harvest recommendations that will promote healthy and sustainable populations. While hunter harvest has a significant impact on adult white-tailed deer survival across much of the species range, attitudes and selective preferences may vary between public- and private-land hunters, creating the potential for vast differences in deer population dynamics between land-ownership types. While this possibility has not yet been thoroughly explored, such differences may present a challenge to state agencies whose management strategies are based on information from a single land-ownership type. From 2014-2016, we radio-marked and monitored the survival of adult white-tailed deer on public and private land in Alabama. We assessed the relative importance of covariates including sex, age, and land-ownership type (i.e., public vs. private land) on overall survival and hunting-related mortality using an information-theoretic approach. Hunter harvest accounted for 77% of all observed mortalities. However, harvest-related mortality did not vary between public and private study areas, likely as a result of Quality Deer Management practices on private land that emulated the effects of more restrictive harvest regulations on public land. Our findings suggest that adult deer survival rates may be broadly applicable where harvest restrictions on public land are in excess of those on private property. However, where restrictions apply evenly across land-ownership types, differences in harvest rates and overall survival may exist.

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