Abstract

Title:  Food habits and dietary overlap of white-tailed deer and sambar deer on St. Vincent NWR, Florida.
Author(s): Shea, S M, L, B. Flynn, ft. L. Marchinton, and K. S. Johansen.
Year: 1987
Abstract: Diets of white-tailed (Odocoileus virninianus) and sambar deer (Cervus unicolor) on St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, were determined from microhistological analysis of feces and macroscopic analysis of rumen contents. Five fecal samples from each species were collected monthly for one year during 1984-85. Rumen samples from 16 white-tails and 8 sambar were collected during fall 1984. Microhistological analysis revealed that browse (i.e., green leaves and twigs from woody plants) comprised the bulk of the white-tails' diet during all seasons (69-91%). This analysis underestimated the amount of mast in the diet. Examination of rumen contents revealed that cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) berries (44%) and acorns (28%) were heavily utilized during fall. Fecal samples from sambar contained a wider variety of food items than those from white-tails. Browse (44-76%), grasses and sedges 12-34%), and forbs (7-24%) were heavily utilized. Rumen contents indicated that some acorns (18%) were eaten during the fall. About 1/3 of their diet was hydrophytic forbs and other aquatic plants, while white-tails fed almost exclusively on terrestrial plants. Based on Kulcyznski's similarity index, the mean seasonal dietary overlap between the 2 species was only 38%. Competition for acorns occurred during the fall, but most dietary overlap was on browse species that were so abundant as to not be a limiting factor. In our opinion, the level of competition is relatively low at present and does not represent a threat to either species. This is supported by the fact that they have coexisted on the island for over 75 years.

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