Summer habitat use by adult female mule deer in a restoration-treated ponderosa pine forest


  • Associate Editor: Homyack


Across ponderosa pine—(Pinus ponderosa) dominated forests of northern Arizona, USA, large-scale restoration and fuels treatments are being implemented or planned to reduce wildfire threat and severity and improve ecosystem health. It is important to understand how these activities will affect animal populations, including species of economic and social importance, such as mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus). Forest treatments may improve foraging habitat for mule deer by opening forest canopy and stimulating shrub and herbaceous production, but also may reduce availability of day-bed sites. In this context, we used a generalized linear mixed-model approach and utilization distributions to estimate post-treatment relative intensity of summer (Apr–Sep) use of multiple habitat attributes by adult female mule deer on the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in northern Arizona between 2003 and 2005. Based on 5,776 Global Positioning System collar locations from 10 individuals (math formula = 580 locations/individual), we identified intensive use of areas that received a thin-and-burn treatment in the previous season, were located on gentle slopes, and were proximate to reliable water sources. Female mule deer likely selected thin-and-burn treatment areas to take advantage of increased forage abundance. Because thin-and-burn treatments did not remove Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) or Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), substantial shrub and mid-story vegetation cover remained post-treatment. Our results indicated the potential value of a mosaic approach to ponderosa pine forest restoration, where untreated areas, as well as treated areas that retain Gambel oak and juniper, are heterogeneously distributed across the landscape. This approach also would provide important concealment cover and forage after thin-and-burn and thin-only treatments. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.