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Title: Influences of hunting on the behavior of white-tailed deer: implications for conservation of the Florida panther

Author: Kilgo, John C.; Labisky, Ronald F.; Fritzen, Duane E.;

Date: 1998

Source: Conservation Biology. 12(6): 1359-1364.

Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication

Description: The effects of deer hunting by humans on deer population dynamics and behavior may indirectly affect the population dynamics and behavior of deer predators. The authors present data on the effects of hunting on the behavior of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on the Osceola National Forest, a potential reintroduction site for the endangered Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi). The authors then use this information to formulate and recommend testable hypotheses to investigate whether these changes in deer behavior influence panther movements, mortality, and hunting success. The authors monitored 14 radio-collared deer from June 1990 through July 1991 to compare movement, activity, and habitat-use patterns between the hunting and non-hunting seasons. Mean distance of deer to the nearest road, mean distance of activity centers of diel home ranges to the nearest road, and mean nocturnal rate of activity were greater during the hunting than the nonhunting seasons. During the hunting season, deer avoided clearcuts, young pine plantations (4-10 years old), and other open habitats and preferred swamp and mature pine forests, both of which provided cover. These results suggest that deer responded to hunter disturbance by moving away from roads and increasing nocturnal activity. Although recreational deer hunting may reduce the prey base for panthers, the changes observed in deer behavior during the hunting season may benefit panthers in the following ways: (1) an increase in nocturnal activity and movement away from roads by deer into areas frequented by panthers may increase prey availability for panthers; (2) the movement of deer away from roads may in turn draw panthers away from roads, which may decrease the chance of panthers being killed by vehicular traffic or poachers.

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Kilgo, John C.; Labisky, Ronald F.; Fritzen, Duane E. 1998. Influences of hunting on the behavior of white-tailed deer: implications for conservation of the Florida panther. Conservation Biology. 12(6): 1359-1364.


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