Winter Forage Selection in White-Tailed Deer at High Density: Balsam Fir is the Best of a Bad Choice

Authors

  • DANIEL G. SAUVÉ,

    1. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada-Produits forestiers Anticosti Industrial Research Chair, Département de biologie and Centre d'études nordiques, Université Laval, Québec, PQ GlK 7P4, Canada
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  • STEEVE D. CǑTÉ

    Corresponding author
    1. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada-Produits forestiers Anticosti Industrial Research Chair, Département de biologie and Centre d'études nordiques, Université Laval, Québec, PQ GlK 7P4, Canada
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steeve.cote@bio.ulaval.ca

Abstract

Abstract: We assessed winter forage selection by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on Anticosti Island, Quebec, Canada, using cafeteria-feeding trials. Winter habitat on Anticosti is degraded and free-ranging deer at high densities consume 70% balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and 20% white spruce (Picea glauca), even though spruce is much more available than fir. Deer ate 89.9% balsam fir and 10.1% white spruce when the availability of both trees was equal. Deer did not eat shredded twigs more than intact twigs. Fiber content and condensed tannins were greater in white spruce than in balsam fir. Deer preference for fir was not based on texture but, more likely, on plant constituents, so we concluded that deer will nearly eliminate fir before they use any significant amount of white spruce. Management actions, therefore, need to be undertaken to enhance balsam fir regeneration.

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