Where Deer Roam: Chronic Yet Acute Site Exposures Preclude Ecological Risk Assessment


Lawrence V. Tannenbaum, Environmental Health Risk Assessment Program, U.S. Army Institute of Public Health, Public Health Command, MCHB-IP-REH, Bldg. 1675, APG-EA, MD 21010-5403, USA; larry.tannenbaum@us.army.mil.


Global positioning system (GPS) technology has made possible the detailed tracking of the spatial movements of wildlife. Using GPS tracking collars placed on female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) over a protracted period, we illustrate that this species is spatially irrelevant for consideration in ecological risk assessments (ERAs) for commonly assessed contaminated sites. Specifically, deer movements do not allow for a sufficiency of chemical exposures to occur such that toxicological endpoints would be triggered. Deer are spatially irrelevant not only because their home ranges and overall utilized areas dwarf prototypical hazardous waste sites. They are also inappropriate for assessment because they only minimally contact reasonably sized preferred locations, this while demonstrating a confounding high degree of site affinity for them. Our spatial movements analysis suggests that deer introduce the ERA novelty of a species displaying elements of both chronic and acute site exposure. We further suggest that other large commonly assessed high-profile mammals could also be found to be spatially irrelevant for ERAs were they to submit to the GPS tracking and subsequent data analysis we performed for the deer. Recognizing that certain receptors need not be considered in ERAs can help to simplify the ERA process.