Survival rates of female white-tailed deer on an industrial forest following a decline in population density – 2013. Proceedings of the 18th Central Hardwoods Forest Conference 117:487-496

Crimmins, S.M., J.W. Edwards, P.D. Keyser, J.M. Crum, W.M. Ford, B.F. Miller, T.A. Campbell, and K.V. Miller. 2013. Survival rates of female white-tailed deer on an industrial forest following a decline in population density. Proceedings of the 18th Central Hardwoods Forest Conference (2012) USDA Forest Service GTR-NRS-P-117, pages 487-496.

With white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations at historically high levels throughout many North American forests, many current management activities are aimed at reducing deer populations. However, very little information exists on the ecology of low-density white-tailed deer populations or populations that have declined in density. We examined cause-specific mortality rates in a white-tailed deer population that recently experienced a substantial (>50 percent) decline in population density on an industrial forest in central West Virginia. We monitored 57 adult female deer from August 2006 to April 2008, documenting 18 mortalities. Annual survival was 0.810 (0.733-0.894), similar to results found before population decline. Annual cause-specific mortality rates were 0.119 (0.062-0.177) for anthropogenic mortality and 0.071 (0.029-0.113) for natural mortality. The increase in anthropogenic mortality likely resulted from changes in harvest regulations and access to our study area. Our results support previous work suggesting that adult survival rates in ungulates are robust to changes in population density and indicate that density-dependent mechanisms were not acting upon adult survival in this population during our study.

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