Factors influencing white-tailed deer activity patterns and habitat use

P. Beier, D. R. McCullough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

242 Scopus citations

Abstract

For Odocoileus virginianus on the George Reserve, Michigan, mean percent of time active for both sexes peaked in spring and fall with a pronounced low in January and February and a moderate low in June and July. Females were significantly more active than males during January through June. This seasonal pattern, and differences by sex, were consistent with seasonal and sexual differences in metabolic demand relative to food resources. During most months, deer exhibited a diel activity pattern with peaks at sunset and just after sunrise. The sexes did not differ in diel patterns except during September and October when males were more active at night and females more active by day. Deer activity decreased with snow depth, even at slight snow depths, probably because of changes in food availability. Deer activity was maximum at 6-16°C and decreased at both higher and lower temperatures. Effects of temperature varied with time of day, season, cloud cover, wind speed, and habitat. There were no marked shifts in use of vegetation types among spring, summer and fall. Winter habitat use differed strongly from that in the other 3 seasons, with grasslands, swamps and bogs used more and closed forests used less than during other seasons. Weather variables influenced habitat use only during winter. Increased use of swamps and decreased use of closed forests, open woodlands, and grasslands were associated with increasing snow depth. Swamps may facilitate deer aggregation to reduce the risk of predation under deep snow conditions. Deer used closed vegetation types during daytime and open types at dusk, night and dawn. Males made greater use of closed forests, females of open woodlands and grassland. Seasonal home ranges on the George Reserve (males 142 ha; females 45 ha) were smaller than reported elsewhere, probably because of high interspersion of habitat types. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalWildlife Monographs
Volume109
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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