Kansas State University
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Manhattan, KS 66506-3501
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Survival Rates, Habitat Selection, and Movement of sympatric Mule Deer and White-tailed Deer in Kansas

Investigators:
Maureen Kinlan

Project Supervisor:
Dr. David Haukos

Funding:
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

Cooperators:
Kansas State University

Location:
Kansas

Completion:
December 2021

Status: Began Summer 2017

White_Tail
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Objectives:

Estimate survival rates and cause-specific mortality ofadult and fawn mule and white-tailed deer.

Determine relative vulnerability ofmale mule deer and white-tailed deer during hunting seasons.

Determine sex and species-specific habitat selection for remail mule deer and whitetailed deer.

Determine habitat use, cause-specific mortality, harvest risk, and recruitment of fawns.

Progress and Results:
Deer are an important natural resource to the people of Kansas and their outdoor recreation heritage. More than 120,000 people per year have hunted deer in Kansas during recent years. The 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Huntingand Wildlife-Associated Recreation revealed that 1,156,000 residents of Kansas and non-residents participated in recreational wildlife viewing in the state. Nationally 46.2% of the 22.5 million people who observe, fed or photograph wildlife away from their home were observing large land mammals (i.e., 10.4 million people).

Kansas was the last state in the USA to allow a modem day deer hunting seasons based on wildlife management practices. The first year when hunters were allowed to take deer was 1965. From 1965 until 2000, there was a steady increase in both the distribution and abundance of deer. Since 2000, the management program in Kansas has had the goal of maintaining a stable deer population at culturally accepted levels that provides sustainable harvest opportunities. KDWPT conducts distance sampling to estimate deer densities within deer management units, hunter surveys to estimate harvest rates, and uses deer-vehicle collision rates as an index to deer abundance. However, there have been no recent studies of deer conducted in Kansas that provide insight into vital rates such as survival and recruitment, or movements and habitat selection. To properly manage whitetail and mule deer, it is crucial that natural resource managers in Kansas have information on reproductive rates, survival of different age classes, causes of mortality, movement patterns, and habitat use for each species.

There is evidence for competitive exclusion of mule deer by expanding white-tail deer populations. The two prevailing hypotheses for the decline of mule deer and expansion of whitetails are changes in land use and competitive dominance of whitetails over mule deer (Mackie et al. 1998). Studies of sympatric whitetails and mule deer all point to habitat segregation of the two species, with mule deer selecting higher elevations, more rugged terrain, and more open habitats, while whitetails select lower elevations, riparian areas, agricultural crops, and closed canopies (Mackie et al. 1998; Brunjes et al. 2006). Few studies have been made on sympatric mule deer and white-tailed deer in the southern Great Plains that include private lands managed for agricultural purposes. Mackie et al. (1998) studied the species in Montana. Brunjes et al. (2006) examined the habitat use and selection of the two species in Texas. Improvements in techniques have allowed researchers to gather information on migratory patterns of mule deer in western states (Lendrum et al. 2012). The influence of hunting has been studied on white-tailed deer (Foster et al. 1997, Nixon et al. 1991); however, is has not been studied for sympatric mule deer and white-tailed deer populations where there is an effort to improve management.

White-tailed deer are expanding into mule deer range in Kansas, with unknown effects on mule deer populations other than anecdotal observations that mule deer populations decline following invasion by white-tailed deer. In western Kansas, there is less opportunity for deer to segregate along an elevational gradient, making competition between the two species more likely.



Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)


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