1. K-State home
  2. »KSCFWRU
  3. »research
  4. »projects
  5. »Survival Rates, Habitat Selection, and Movement of Sympatric Mule Deer and White-tailed Deer in Kansas

Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Survival Rates, Habitat Selection, and Movement of Sympatric Mule Deer and White-tailed Deer in Kansas

Investigators:Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)
Mitchell Kern, M.S. candidate
Maureen Kinlan, M.S. student
Talesha Karish, Ph.D. student

Project Supervisor:
Dr. David Haukos
Dr. Andrew Ricketts

Funding:
Kansas Department of Wildlife,
Parks and Tourism

Cooperators:
Levi Jaster, KDWPT
Kansas Bowhunters Association
Mule Deer Foundation
Kansas State University

Location:
New Almelo, Kansas
Scott City, Kansas

Completion:
December 2021

Status: Began Summer 2017 (ongoing)

Objectives:
Research population trends and movement patterns of white-tailed and mule deer in western Kansas

Establish survival rates, bed-site selection, and cause-specific mortalities of fawns in white-tailed and mule deer

Evaluate seasonal survival rates, cause-specific mortality, and movements of adult male mule deer and white-tailed deer in western Kansas

Evaluate seasonal survival rates, cause-specific mortality, resource selection and movements of adult female mule deer and white-tailed deer in western Kansas

Progress and Results:
February 2018:

• 1st adult capture season:
30 white-tailed and 30 mule deer in each study area (even sex distribution in each species) for a total of 120 adult deer.

June 2018 (current as of 6/13/18):

• North Site:
30 bucks captured, 1 mortality.
30 does captured, 2 failed collars
23 fawns captured, 8 mortalities, 1 slipped collar.
2 VITs remaining

• South Site:
30 bucks captured.
30 does captured, 4 mortalities, 1 failed collar.
18 captured fawns, 13 mortalities, 1 slipped collar.
3 VITs remaining

• Total:
60 collared bucks, 1 mortality.
60 collared does, 4 mortalities, 3 failed collars.
41 collared fawns, 21 mortalities, 2 slipped collars.
5 VITs remaining

Overall

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and white-tailed deer (O. virginianus) are two common sympatric deer species in the Great Plains and western United States that have been exhibiting divergent population trends temporally and spatially. Mule deer populations are declining and contracting to the west while populations of white-tailed deer are increasing and expanding. Limited research has been conducted in Kansas to understand why two similar species are exhibiting vastly different population trends.

In February 2018, we processed 120 adult deer at two separate study sites over a span of 4 days utilizing helicopter net-gun capture techniques. Each study area is comprised of 60 adult deer; 30 white-tailed deer, 30 mule deer, and both species have a 50:50 sex ratio. Bucks were captured, collared, ear tagged, had blood samples drawn and released at the capture site. Does were captured and transported to a central processing location. In addition to the aforementioned procedures bucks received, we conducted disease sampling, age verification, pregnancy checks (ultrasound imagery), body fat indices (palpation and ultrasound imagery), morphological measurements, and inserted Vaginal Implant Transmitters (VITs) for does.

Fawn Survival Rates, Cause Specific Mortalities, and Bed-Site Selection (Mitchell Kern)

Fawn survival rates may provide one possible explanation for the dissimilar population trends observed between the two analogous deer species. During the summer of 2018, we captured fawns associated with the VITs implanted during the adult helicopter season. The average fawn capture rate is 1.5 fawns per VIT suggesting each study site could catch up to a maximum of 45 fawns. Unfortunately doe mortalities, premature VIT expulsions, and technology malfunctions have all hindered fawn capture potential in both study sites.

Fawns captured from VIT expulsions received VHF collars, ear tags, and had several simple morphological measurements taken resulting in a capture process time less than 10 minutes. Fawns were monitored daily for up to 10 weeks dependent upon mortality or censor events. Daily monitoring included visually locating the fawn, marking the current bed site, and conducting habitat assessment measurements on the bed-site from the previous day.

The first fawn capture associated with an expelled VIT occurred on 5/12/18 in the southern study site. Almost two weeks later, the first fawn was collared in the northern study site on 5/23/18. As of 6/15/18, 23 fawns (14 white-tailed deer and 9 mule deer) in the northern site and 18 fawns (7 white-tailed deer and 11 mule deer) in the southern site have been captured. Also as 6/15/18, there were 20 live fawn collars due to 13 mortalities and one slipped collar in the southern study site and 7 mortalities and one slipped collar in the northern site. Suspected mortality causes in order of importance include predation, malnutrition, and agricultural equipment.

Seasonal Survival and Movements of Male Mule Deer and White-tailed Deer in Western Kansas (Maureen Kinlan)

The abundance and occupied range of mule deer in Kansas have been declining for 20 years. The two predominant hypotheses for the loss of mule deer and concurrent expansion of white-tailed deer are changes in land use and competitive dominance of white-tailed deer over mule deer. Despite the popularity and income that stem from hunting revenue, there have been no recent studies that provide critical insight on how to improve management and conservation of sympatric populations of both species in Kansas. Our objectives were to evaluate seasonal survival rates, cause-specific mortality, and movements of adult male mule deer and white-tailed deer in western Kansas. We aerially captured and GPS-collared 60 male mule deer and white-tailed deer at two different study sites. Dominant landcover (native grassland vs cropland) differed between the study sites. Each deer was fitted with a high resolution GPS/VHF collar that recorded bi-hourly locations and used an activity sensor to identify mortality events. Known fate models were used to evaluate landscape factors affecting survival and estimate seasonal survival rates. We used ArcGIS to measure temporal movements and Brownian Bridge Movement Models to estimate seasonal home ranges. Survival of male mule deer and white-tailed deer during spring and summer is high. Since adult capture, only one adult deer mortality has occurred; a white-tailed deer at the northern study site in April. Average daily movements and home range size are influenced by season and landscape. Inclusion of another two years of data will add to the information available to natural resource managers for management of both species in western Kansas.

Resource Selection and Movements of Female Mule Deer and White-tailed Deer during Parturition and Lactation in Western Kansas. (Talesha Karish)

The third part of the study focused on females; our objectives are to evaluate seasonal survival rates, cause-specific mortality, resource selection and movements of adult female mule deer and white-tailed deer in western Kansas. We used helicopters to capture and GPS-collar 30 female mule deer and 30 white-tailed deer split evenly between two study sites. Each deer was fitted with a high resolution GPS/VHF collar that recorded bi-hourly locations with an activity sensor to identify mortality events. Each collared deer also received a Vaginal Implant Transmitter digitally linked with the collar to record and send an alert for the exact time of parturition.

We predict that resource selection will differ between the two study sites due to difference in dominant land-cover (native grassland vs cropland). We used ArcGIS to measure temporal movements and Brownian Bridge Movement Models to estimate seasonal home ranges. Average daily movements and home range sizes of females were influenced by reproductive stage of does. Parturition and lactation are energetically demanding of females and their resource needs change. Using data gained by monitoring the captured fawns, we were able to tell what stage the females were in accurately. We used logistic regression to compare foraging locations of lactating and non-lactating females throughout the season. This information will be used to improve management of both species in Kansas.

As of 6/14/18 there are 53 live collared does. One doe has a collar in which both the GPS and VHF have failed. While she has been sighted with the collar she will likely be censored from the data. There have been 3 mortalities within 2 weeks of capture that will be considered capture myopathy. The final mortality was likely caused by predation.

Products:
Professional Presentations:
Kern, M. 2018. Deer ecology project. Lenora Senior Center, Lenora, KS.
Kern, M., M. Kinlan, T. Karish, A. Ricketts, and D. Haukos.2018. Survival rates, cause-specific mortality, movement patterns, and habitat selection of white-tailed deer and mule deer in Kansas. Jubilee Parade, Lenora, KS.
Kern, M., M. Kinlan, T. Karish, A. Ricketts, D. Haukos, and L. Jaster. 2018. Survival and cause-specific mortality of white-tailed and mule deer fawns in western Kansas. TWS Annual Conference, Cleveland, OH.
Kinlan, M., M. Kern, T. Karish, A. Ricketts, D. Haukos, and L. Jaster. 2018. Seasonal survival and movements of male mule deer and white-tailed deer in western Kansas. TWS Annual Conference, Cleveland, Ohio
Karish, T., D. Haukos, A. Ricketts, and L. Jasper. 2018. Resource selection and movements of female mule deer and white-tailed deer during parturition and lactation in western Kansas. Annual Meeting of The Wildlife Society, Cleveland, Ohio.