Investigation of Visual Abilities of White-tailed Deer

 

A retrofitted Deer Training Apparatus. These DTAs were originally constructed during Bradley Cohen's masters research by the UGA Deer Lab.

 

The University of Georgia’s Deer Laboratory has initiated a series of visual capabilities studies in our captive white-tailed deer herd. Firmer understanding of how deer perceive their world is a rudimentary requirement in better management of both deer behavior and deer herds. Implications from these understandings range from the hunting camouflage industry to the development of deterrents for deer-vehicle collisions.

Our current project in this sector of our research focuses on deer color vision. Color perception is determined by multiple properties: saturation, value, and hue. Saturation is the amount of color present, or the dominance of hue. Value describes the lightness or darkness of the color. Hue is the specific wavelength of color. This is what we normally think of when describing color, such as red, blue, and green. We will standardize for value and saturation to specifically examine the visual capabilities of deer to detect and discriminate hue in a two-part study. The first part will focus on hue detection, while the second will focus on hue discrimination. Using existing equipment developed for a previous vision study and retrofitted for this one, we will be able to display computer-generated images in an operant conditioning experiment.

Pseudoisochromatic plate test. This commonly administered vision test detects color-blindness in humans. We'll use a similarly constructed image in our experiment.

Previous physiologically based studies have told us that deer are dichromats. Dichromats perceive color through two difference cone photopigments, versus the normal human ability to perceive color through three. The third cone that humans have that deer lack is a long-wavelength-sensitive cone. When humans lack this cone completely it is a color-blind condition called protanopia. Based on these studies, we expect deer to see color similar to humans with protanopic red-green colorblindness.

Utilizing our novel deer-training devices, we have several specific questions regarding deer vision that we plan to answer in our captive facility upon the completion of our current project.

Principle investigator: Elizabeth A. Miller