Movements and home ranges of white-tailed deer in response to roadside fences

Authors


  • Associate Editor: Porter

Abstract

Although roadside fences have been proven effective at reducing deer–vehicle collisions (DVCs), information on how these fences alter deer behavior is lacking. We evaluated the effects of a traditional and a novel fencing design, constructed alongside a roadway, on movements and home ranges of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). From January to April 2009, we fitted 14 adult female deer with Global Positioning System collars, programmed to collect ≥24 locations/day. In June 2009 we constructed a 3.2-km fence that included a 1.6-km section of 2.4-m vertical-wire fence and a 1.6-km section of a prototype outrigger fence (i.e., 0.6 m, shade-cloth [50% opaque plastic sheeting] on a 45° outrigger angled toward the deer attached to the top of a 1.2 m, vertical-wire fence). We retrieved collars between January and March 2010. We compared home ranges, fence crossings, and fence circumventions among deer that encountered the outrigger and 2.4-m fences as well as for deer that encountered neither fence (i.e., controls), before and after fence construction. Actual crossings of the fence area were reduced, postconstruction, by 98% and 90% for the 2.4 m and outrigger treatment groups, respectively, suggesting that the fences were sufficiently effective to simulate how deer respond to roadside barriers. Deer with pretreatment home ranges that approached or encompassed the fence endings maintained a high degree of site fidelity by circumventing the endings. This study highlights the importance of incorporating information on deer behavior and resource usage into DVC-reduction strategies. If these factors are not accounted for, DVC frequency will likely stay the same, or increase, near fence endings. Thus, roadside fences should likely end at natural barriers to deer movements (i.e., heavy development) or incorporate some means of safe crossing into their endings. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.

Ancillary