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Keywords:

  • Acoustic monitoring;
  • mule deer;
  • sound recording;
  • wildlife behaviour

Abstract

Audio recordings made from free-ranging animals can be used to investigate aspects of physiology, behavior, and ecology through acoustic signal processing. On-animal acoustical monitoring applications allow continuous remote data collection, and can serve to address questions across temporal and spatial scales. We report on the design of an inexpensive collar-mounted recording device and present data on the activity budget of wild mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) derived from these devices applied for a 2-week period. Over 3300 h of acoustical recordings were collected from 10 deer on their winter range in a natural gas extraction field in northwestern Colorado. Analysis of a subset of the data indicated deer spent approximately 33.5% of their time browsing, 20.8% of their time processing food through mastication, and nearly 38.3% of their time digesting through rumination, with marked differences in diel patterning of these activities. Systematic auditory vigilance was a salient activity when masticating, and these data offer options for quantifying wildlife responses to varying listening conditions and predation risk. These results (validated using direct observation) demonstrate that acoustical monitoring is a viable and accurate method for characterizing individual time budgets and behaviors of ungulates, and may provide new insight into the ways external forces affect wildlife behavior.