Title:  GPS-tracking collars for understanding factors affecting deer use of soybean fields and surrounding habitats.
Author(s): Kent A. Adams and Lisa I. Muller - University of Tennessee, Mark C. Conner - DuPont Agricultural Products, Frank van Manen - USGS, University of Tennessee, and Craig A. Harper - University of Tennessee
Year: 2003
Abstract: The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is the leading species associated with wildlife damage to agriculture. Surrounding land use, habitat interspersion, and deer movement among habitats may affect feeding intensity in crop fields. Temporal changes in food availability, vegetation structure, and plant growth stage may also influence soybean use by deer. Fine-scale deer movements and use of surrounding habitat can only be determined with accurate animal locations. Therefore, we tracked 16 adult (> 1 year old) does in an agricultural area (Chesapeake Farms, Chestertown, MD) using GPS tracking collars (GPS-2000 Lotek Engineering) in 2001 (n = 10) and 2002 (n = 6). Collars obtained locations every two hours throughout the soybean growing season. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIs) we developed multiple spatial and temporal variables for deer locations in soybean fields related to adjacent cover and food sources, edge characteristics, and crop growth stage. Significant variables will be used to develop a predictive model to identify crop fields at the greatest risk for deer damage. Understanding how deer utilize agricultural landscapes on a small scale will facilitate integrated management of deer populations and surrounding habitats. Reducing deer density is the best way to attenuate deer damage; however, significant depredation losses can occur even at low densities. Farmers may be able to modify land use practices around cash crops to reduce the impact of deer. We expect this research will promote sound deer management, profitable agriculture and quality hunting opportunities.

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