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Effects of landscape and land-ownership patterns on deer movements in a suburban community

Authors

  • Howard J. Kilpatrick,

    Corresponding author
    1. Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Wildlife Division, 391 Route 32, North Franklin, CT 06254, USA
    • Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Wildlife Division, 391 Route 32, North Franklin, CT 06254, USA.
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  • Andrew M. Labonte,

    1. Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Wildlife Division, 391 Route 32, North Franklin, CT 06254, USA
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  • John S. Barclay

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Center, University of Connecticut, 1376 Storrs Road, Unit 4087, Storrs, CT 06269, USA
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  • Associate Editor: Porter

Abstract

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) have adapted to, and are thriving in, residential–suburban landscapes. Special hunts, sharpshooting programs, and fertility control efforts have been implemented in residential communities to reduce local deer populations. For these management strategies to be effective, it is important to understand deer movement and behavior patterns in suburban landscapes. Our objectives were to quantify annual and hunt-season home-range size, and evaluate the relationships between landscape characteristics, land-ownership patterns, and deer movements during the autumn hunting season. Much variation in home range size was observed for annual (15.5–173 ha) and hunt-season home range (16.8–120.7 ha) over the 2-yr study. Deer core areas were not characteristically different from home ranges with regards to forest lands or building density, but were different with regards to road density and property density. Deer use of core areas during the day was similar to, or higher than, deer use at night. Most individual properties in deer core areas were <2.8 ha. Under the current set-back distance for firearms hunting (152 m), 31% and 38% of deer had no portion of their home range potentially open to firearms hunting, and 69% and 81% had no portion of their core areas potentially open to firearms hunting in years 1 and 2. Percentage of forest in home range buffers decreased from 66% in year 1 (abundant acorns) to 46% in year 2 (moderate acorns) as deer shifted into residential development. Findings from our study emphasize the value of conducting multiyear studies and incorporating other variables such as mast abundance to improve interpretation of landscape models. The close association of deer core areas with roads suggests that sharpshooting programs that bait and shoot deer from roads may be an effective management option. In suburban landscapes, deer core areas are comprised of many different landowners, limiting hunter access and mobility to deer core areas. No-hunt buffers around buildings should be reduced to levels that increase hunter access to deer core areas, yet maintain reasonable safety zones. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.

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