Working Together For Quality Deer Management

 In Deer Management

Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences personnel are currently working in coordination with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, The Westervelt Company, and private landowners to research adult white-tailed deer across Alabama. The overarching goal of this study is to gain a better understanding of the survival and fine-scale movement of white-tailed deer within the state for the enhanced management of this important natural resource.

To conduct the research, male and female deer of various adult ages are being captured using sedatives and then either fitted with a VHF (Very High Frequency) radio collar or a GPS collar around the neck of the deer. The VHF radio collars allow the investigators to re-locate the deer following capture and determine if it is still alive or if it has died. When mortality has been indicated by the collar, the body can be recovered and the cause of death can be identified. In this way, the state will learn what ages of deer are most susceptible to mortality and what the main causes of mortality are. This part of the study also aims to determine deer mortality due to hunter harvest. For this reason, hunters are encouraged to treat deer they see in the field wearing these plain, brown leather collars as if they were not collared at all. This means a hunter should feel free to harvest a VHF radio collared deer if they would normally have taken a deer of that sex and age, but refrain from shooting collared deer simply because of the collar. This will ensure the data for the study are unbiased and accurate. All collared deer will be safe for consumption by the fall 2014 deer season. Hunters who harvest a collared deer, whether intentionally or by mistake, should contact the phone number located on the collar so that this information can be included in the study.

The GPS collars that some deer will be wearing record the precise location of the deer several times each day throughout the year. This information is stored on the collar until the scheduled fall-off date in the spring of 2016. At that time, the collar can be retrieved by the investigators and the locations downloaded and analyzed. This information will be used to determine home range sizes of male and female deer of various ages across Alabama, what habitats are being used most often by deer, and how deer change their behavior at different times of the year. THESE COLLARS ARE BLAZE ORANGE IN COLOR AND HUNTERS ARE ASKED NOT TO SHOOT DEER WEARING A GPS COLLAR. It is important that these deer be allowed to live for the full 2-year study period so the collars can collect all the information that is needed. If a deer with an orange collar is harvested by mistake, the hunter is encouraged to contact the phone number on the collar so the stored data can be retrieved.

Locations for this study include private property in Marengo Country, property owned by The Westervelt Company in Marengo and Pickens counties, as well as the Oakmulgee WMA and Barbour County WMA. This past winter 29 adult white-tailed deer were captured and fitted with VHF radio collars across these areas of the state. Beginning in May 2014, researchers began putting out the orange GPS collars on white-tailed deer at each area as well as additional VHF radio collars. By the end of the summer 2014, the project goal is to have a total of 60 VHF radio collared deer and 30 GPS collared deer in Alabama. So far, 15 VHF and 5 GPS collars at Marengo, 12 VHF and 1 GPS at Barbour, 7 VHF at Pickens, and 1 VHF at Oakmulgee have been deployed to date.


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