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Movements of female exurban white-tailed deer in response to controlled hunts


  • Associate Editor: Hewison



White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) thrive in exurban habitats, which results in increased occurrences of deer–human conflicts. Controlled hunts are one method currently used by managers to deal with increasing exurban deer populations. To develop successful controlled hunts, managers must understand how deer respond to hunting pressure during controlled hunts. Previous research has documented a varied response of deer to harvest pressure and this response could affect the efficacy of a controlled hunt. We investigated deer responses to controlled hunts by examining an exurban deer population residing on Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Cecil County, Maryland, USA. During controlled hunts in 2005 and 2006, we collected locations on 74 collared adult female deer. The percentage of deer available for harvest decreased 20–25% from before to after the hunt, because deer moved to refuges. Deer in refuges had similar movement rates before, during, and after the hunt, and these movement rates were similar to deer in non-refuge areas before the hunt. Deer in non-refuge areas increased their movement rates 12.6–15.6 m/hour during the hunt and returned to before-hunt levels after the hunt. Our results suggest that refuges may provide sanctuary to a substantial portion of exurban deer during controlled hunts. To maximize deer harvests during controlled hunts, managers should identify and attempt to eliminate as many refuge areas as possible and plan multiple short-duration hunts to reduce the impact of deer moving into refuge areas. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.