The South Florida Deer Study is a multifaceted research collaboration involving the University of Georgia (UGA) The Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Conservancy of Southwest Florida (Conservancy) and National Park Service (NPS) investigating factors influencing deer population dynamics in Bear Island and North Addition Land Units of Big Cypress National Preserve, and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. These study sites were selected based on availability of historical data, presence of Global Positioning System (GPS)-collared Florida panthers, existing camera grids, access and feasibility, consultation with area biologists and managers, and variation in hydrology and hunting regulations.
The goal of this project is to gain a better understanding of the factors that influence white-tailed deer population trends in South Florida and to develop a methodology that allows for monitoring deer populations. The specific objectives are to:
- Understand the effects of hydrology, hunting, and predation on deer population dynamics in South Florida.
- Develop a monitoring program based on camera trapping for deer populations in South Florida.
During January 2015, UGA Deer Lab graduate students Brian Kelly and Daniel Crawford led a research team that captured over 100 deer in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Big Cypress National Preserve. They are using GPS radio collars and trail cameras to monitor this deer population that is the prey base for the endangered Florida panther and prized game for many hunters. Deer population declines in portions of South Florida have raised concerns among deer managers. The UGA Deer Lab is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to investigate factors influencing population dynamics and the spatial ecology of this deer herd to inform harvest and habitat management decisions.
Brian and Daniel coordinated capture efforts that included deer capture experts Dragonfly Aviation and a NPS aviation unit. Working in tandem this two ship operation was able to catch 109 deer in seven days. The research team fitted 100 adult white-tailed with GPS collars and ear tagged several fawns.
The UGA Deer Lab thanks Andrew King, JJ Burson and Kevin Reed of Dragonfly Aviation.