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Utility of improvised video-camera collars for collecting contact data from white-tailed deer: Possibilities in disease transmission studies

Authors

  • Michael J. Lavelle,

    1. United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, CO 80521-2154, USA
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  • Scott E. Hygnstrom,

    1. University of Nebraska, School of Natural Resources, Lincoln, NE 68583-0974, USA
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  • Aaron M. Hildreth,

    1. University of Nebraska, School of Natural Resources, Lincoln, NE 68583-0974, USA
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  • Tyler A. Campbell,

    1. United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Florida Field Station, Gainesville, FL 32641, USA
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  • David B. Long,

    1. United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Florida Field Station, Gainesville, FL 32641, USA
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  • David G. Hewitt,

    1. Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, TX 78363-8202, USA
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  • Jeff Beringer,

    1. Missouri Department of Conservation, Conservation Research Center, Columbia, MO 65201, USA
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  • Kurt C. VerCauteren

    Corresponding author
    1. United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, CO 80521-2154, USA
    • United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, CO 80521-2154, USA
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  • Associate Editor: Messmer

Abstract

Rapidly evolving electronic technology enables wildlife researchers to collect previously unobtainable data. To explore possibilities of using deer-borne cameras (DBCs) to collect behavioral data from an animal's point of view, we constructed DBCs and deployed them on 26 adult male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) within a closed population (405-ha fenced area) in southern Texas just prior to the breeding season during autumn 2010. Our DBCs consisted of global positioning system collars with attached motion-activated trail cameras. We obtained 21,474 video clips from 17 functional DBCs over a period of 14 days. Individual-based data are invaluable in disease and population modeling; therefore, we confirmed the identify of 37 individual deer in field of view of DBCs based on ear tags, collar numbers, and antler characteristics (e.g., point counts, relative mass, tine length). Additionally, we recorded 85 contacts, including 36 with identifiable deer, involving breeding (n = 1), sparring (n = 63), grooming (n = 5), and muzzle contact (n = 16). Our results demonstrate the value of using DBCs to record direct contacts and associated behaviors and even to enable estimation of contact rates, thus improving the understanding of the potential for transmission of disease pathogens. Published 2012. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

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