Effects of visual obstruction on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) include enhanced vigilance and flight-initiation distances. Prior work suggests that artificial visual barriers might enhance perceived risk of predation to deer. During 2008–2010 at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Plum Brook Station (Erie County, OH), we tested the hypotheses that visual obstruction of winter feeding stations would result in fewer white-tailed deer visiting treatment stations and increased vigilance exhibited relative to deer using control stations. When feeding stations were bounded on 3 sides by a 22.5-m-long, 1.5-m-high, continuous, polyethylene visual barrier (including a 5-m opening on the fourth side), and offset from the food resource by 22.5 m, we observed no differences in deer use or vigilance compared with control stations (4.5-cm mesh, snow fencing only). In a second experiment, feeding stations bounded by individual, 1.5-m-high, polyethylene visual barriers, positioned on 3 sides only and offset from the food resource by only 7.6 m each, were characterized by 1) fewer deer, 2) increased alert behavior (e.g., head held above horizontal, ears erect, body posture noticeably stiff and animal paused, directed attention, tail flagging, or fleeing) by deer using the stations, and 3) fewer deer using stations at night, relative to control stations. Visual barriers offset at most by 7.6 m from a food resource (e.g., crops), or located randomly within target areas frequented by deer can offer temporary and easily manipulated means of diminishing deer use of resources on unfenced General Aviation airports or depredation of agricultural crops, and ready integration with other management methods. Published 2012. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.
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