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Deer Density, Movement Patterns, and Group Dynamics on Quivira National Wildlife Refuge: Assessing Potential Risk for Disease Transmission

Investigators
Kevin Blecha
Dr. Jonathan Conard

Project Supervisor
Dr. Jonathan Conard

Funding
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Research Laboratory

Location
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
Cooperators
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
Sterling College
Kansas State University
Completion
July 2012
Objectives
Identify factors contributing to direct and indirect contact rates among deer.

Background on density, movements, and social structure to develop testable hypothesis for future research on white-tailed deer of QNWR.

Progress and Results

In our study, small grains (winter wheat / rye) are the most common crop within the predominantly agricultural landscape surrounding Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. This type of crop was used most frequently by deer, and was preferred by deer in winter time periods during some years of our study. In addition to winter wheat, deer used a variety of other crop types including corn, alfalfa, and fallow fields. Use of corn by white-tailed deer peaked during the summer which is consistent with observations that deer will consume corn during the summer (Nixon et al. 1991) and that home ranges may shift closer to corn fields during the tasseling-silking developmental stage Fallow fields were used by deer most frequently during the summer (May-August) and were not avoided by deer during any season. The use of fallow fields by deer during the summer months was unexpected and to our knowledge has not been documented in other agricultural systems. Since deer used habitat selectively with respect to agricultural crops, it may be possible to use existing crop fields on Quivira National Wildlife Refuge as a means of managing distributions and movement patterns of deer. However, our results suggest that male deer often completely avoided burned areas for several weeks following burning and used burned areas of mixed-grass prairie less than expected in the 4 month time period following prescribed burning during the spring and late summer. Deer did not strongly avoid burned areas between 4-16 months following spring burning and did not exhibit a consistent pattern of avoidance or preference for burned areas during this time period. Our results suggest that fire in mixed-grass prairie may strongly influence patterns of habitat selection up to 4 months following a prescribed burn that occurs during the spring or summer.

Products since 2010:

Blecha, K.A., P. S. Gipson, J. M. Conard and J. Sellers. 2008. Deer of Quivira. Information Brochure, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

Conard, J.M. and R. Lauben. 2012. Patterns of habitat selection and densities of white-tailed deer at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Final Report.