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Concept: White-tailed deer


Remedial sport hunting of predators is often used to reduce predator populations and associated complaints and livestock depredations. We assessed the effects of remedial sport hunting on reducing cougar complaints and livestock depredations in Washington from 2005 to 2010 (6 years). The number of complaints, livestock depredations, cougars harvested, estimated cougar populations, human population and livestock populations were calculated for all 39 counties and 136 GMUs (game management units) in Washington. The data was then analyzed using a negative binomial generalized linear model to test for the expected negative relationship between the number of complaints and depredations in the current year with the number of cougars harvested the previous year. As expected, we found that complaints and depredations were positively associated with human population, livestock population, and cougar population. However, contrary to expectations we found that complaints and depredations were most strongly associated with cougars harvested the previous year. The odds of increased complaints and livestock depredations increased dramatically (36 to 240%) with increased cougar harvest. We suggest that increased young male immigration, social disruption of cougar populations, and associated changes in space use by cougars - caused by increased hunting resulted in the increased complaints and livestock depredations. Widespread indiscriminate hunting does not appear to be an effective preventative and remedial method for reducing predator complaints and livestock depredations.

Concepts: Statistics, Population, Predation, Immigration, White-tailed deer, Hunting, World population, Cougar


Understanding population and individual-level behavioral responses of large carnivores to human disturbance is important for conserving top predators in fragmented landscapes. However, previous research has not investigated resource selection at predation sites of mountain lions in highly urbanized areas. We quantified selection of natural and anthropogenic landscape features by mountain lions at sites where they consumed their primary prey, mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), in and adjacent to urban, suburban, and rural areas in greater Los Angeles. We documented intersexual and individual-level variation in the environmental conditions present at mule deer feeding sites relative to their availability across home ranges. Males selected riparian woodlands and areas closer to water more than females, whereas females selected developed areas marginally more than males. Females fed on mule deer closer to developed areas and farther from riparian woodlands than expected based on the availability of these features across their home ranges. We suggest that mortality risk for females and their offspring associated with encounters with males may have influenced the different resource selection patterns between sexes. Males appeared to select mule deer feeding sites mainly in response to natural landscape features, while females may have made kills closer to developed areas in part because these are alternative sites where deer are abundant. Individual mountain lions of both sexes selected developed areas more strongly within home ranges where development occurred less frequently. Thus, areas near development may represent a trade-off for mountain lions such that they may benefit from foraging near development because of abundant prey, but as the landscape becomes highly urbanized these benefits may be outweighed by human disturbance.

Concepts: Natural selection, Predation, Deer, White-tailed deer, Capreolinae, Mule deer, Odocoileus, Cougar


Abstract Acoustic structure, behavioral context, and caregiver responses to infant distress vocalizations (cries) are similar across mammals, including humans. Are these similarities enough for animals to respond to distress vocalizations of taxonomically and ecologically distant species? We show that mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) mothers approach a speaker playing distress vocalizations of infant marmots (Marmota flaviventris), seals (Neophoca cinerea and Arctocephalus tropicalis), domestic cats (Felis catus), bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans), humans (Homo sapiens), and other mammals if the fundamental frequency (F0) falls or is manipulated to fall within the frequency range in which deer respond to young of their own species. They did not approach to predator sounds or to control sounds having the same F0 but a different structure. Our results suggest that acoustic traits of infant distress vocalizations that are essential for a response by caregivers, and a caregiver’s sensitivity to these acoustic traits, may be shared across diverse mammals.

Concepts: Human, Deer, Mammal, Cat, White-tailed deer, Capreolinae, Mule deer, Odocoileus


Game meat from animals killed by lead ammunition may expose consumers to lead. We assessed the risk related to lead intake from meat consumption of White-tailed deer and moose killed by lead ammunition and documented the perception of hunters and butchers regarding this potential contamination. Information on cervid meat consumption and risk perception were collected using a mailed self-administrated questionnaire which was addressed to a random sample of Quebec hunters. In parallel, 72 samples of White-tailed deer (n = 35) and moose (n = 37) meats were collected from voluntary hunters and analysed for lead content using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. Risk assessment for people consuming lead shot game meat was performed using Monte-Carlo simulations. Mean lead levels in White-tailed deer and moose killed by lead ammunition were respectively 0.28 mg kg(-1) and 0.17 mg kg(-1). Risk assessment based on declared cervid meat consumption, revealed that 1.7% of our surveyed hunters would exceed the dose associated with a 1 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure (SBP). For consumers of moose meat once, twice or three times a week, simulations predicted that 0.5%, 0.9% and 1.5% of adults would be exposed to a dose associated with a 1 mm Hg increase in SBP, whereas 0.9%, 1.9% and 3.3% of children would be exposed to a dose associated with 1 point intelligence quotient (IQ) decrease, respectively. For consumers of deer meat, once, twice or three times a week, the proportions were 1.6%, 2.9% and 4% for adults and 2.9%, 5.8% and 7.7% for children, respectively. The consumption of meat from cervids killed with lead ammunition may increase lead exposure and associated health risks. It would be important to inform the population, particularly hunters, about this potential risk and promote the use of lead free ammunition.

Concepts: Risk, Deer, Risk management, White-tailed deer, Hunting, Elk, Capreolinae, Moose


Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is an invariably fatal transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. Despite a 100% fatality rate, areas of high prevalence, and increasingly expanding geographic endemic areas, little is known about the population-level effects of CWD in deer. To investigate these effects, we tested the null hypothesis that high prevalence CWD did not negatively impact white-tailed deer population sustainability. The specific objectives of the study were to monitor CWD-positive and CWD-negative white-tailed deer in a high-prevalence CWD area longitudinally via radio-telemetry and global positioning system (GPS) collars. For the two populations, we determined the following: a) demographic and disease indices, b) annual survival, and c) finite rate of population growth (λ). The CWD prevalence was higher in females (42%) than males (28.8%) and hunter harvest and clinical CWD were the most frequent causes of mortality, with CWD-positive deer over-represented in harvest and total mortalities. Survival was significantly lower for CWD-positive deer and separately by sex; CWD-positive deer were 4.5 times more likely to die annually than CWD-negative deer while bucks were 1.7 times more likely to die than does. Population λ was 0.896 (0.859-0.980), which indicated a 10.4% annual decline. We show that a chronic disease that becomes endemic in wildlife populations has the potential to be population-limiting and the strong population-level effects of CWD suggest affected populations are not sustainable at high disease prevalence under current harvest levels.

Concepts: Demography, Deer, White-tailed deer, Elk, Chronic wasting disease, Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, Demographic economics, Capreolinae


Ungulate gnawing on bone has been reported in the taphonomic and zooarchaeological literature, but there are no known reports of ungulates altering human remains. Herein, we report on the first known photographic evidence of deer gnawing human remains. As described in nonhuman scavenging literature, forking of the bone characterizes the taphonomic effect of deer gnawing in this case, which is distinct from the effect caused by other scavengers. This type of osteophagia during the winter season is consistent with previously documented behavior of deer gnawing on nonhuman bone, possibly to obtain minerals absent in their diet. In this study, we briefly discuss the distinguishing features of ungulate gnawing, the reasons for this behavior, and possible confusion with other common types of scavenging and modification. This report contributes to taphonomic literature covering the range of animal interactions with human skeletal remains.

Concepts: Deer, Report, White-tailed deer, Elk, Moose, Decomposition, Carnivore, Ungulate


A major goal in ecology is to understand mechanisms that increase invasion success of exotic species. A recent hypothesis implicates altered species interactions resulting from ungulate herbivore overabundance as a key cause of exotic plant domination. To test this hypothesis, we maintained an experimental demography deer exclusion study for 6 y in a forest where the native ungulate Odocoileus virginianus (white-tailed deer) is overabundant and Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) is aggressively invading. Because population growth is multiplicative across time, we introduce metrics that correctly integrate experimental effects across treatment years, the cumulative population growth rate, λc, and its geometric mean, λper-year, the time-averaged annual population growth rate. We determined λc and λper-year of the invader and of a common native, Trillium erectum. Our results conclusively demonstrate that deer are required for the success of Alliaria; its projected population trajectory shifted from explosive growth in the presence of deer (λper-year = 1.33) to decline toward extinction where deer are excluded (λper-year = 0.88). In contrast, Trillium’s λper-year was suppressed in the presence of deer relative to deer exclusion (λper-year = 1.04 vs. 1.20, respectively). Retrospective sensitivity analyses revealed that the largest negative effect of deer exclusion on Alliaria came from rosette transitions, whereas the largest positive effect on Trillium came from reproductive transitions. Deer exclusion lowered Alliaria density while increasing Trillium density. Our results provide definitive experimental support that interactions with overabundant ungulates enhance demographic success of invaders and depress natives' success, with broad implications for biodiversity and ecosystem function worldwide.

Concepts: Demography, Deer, White-tailed deer, Elk, Demographic economics, Capreolinae, Mule deer, Population growth


The effect of climatically-driven plant phenology on mammalian reproduction is one key to predicting species-specific demographic responses to climate change. Large ungulates face their greatest energetic demands from the later stages of pregnancy through weaning, and so in seasonal environments parturition dates should match periods of high primary productivity. Interannual variation in weather influences the quality and timing of forage availability, which can influence neonatal survival. Here, we evaluated macro-scale patterns in reproductive performance of a widely distributed ungulate (mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus) across contrasting climatological regimes using satellite-derived indices of primary productivity and plant phenology over eight degrees of latitude (890 km) in the American Southwest. The dataset comprised > 180,000 animal observations taken from 54 populations over eight years (2004-2011). Regionally, both the start and peak of growing season (“Start” and “Peak”, respectively) are negatively and significantly correlated with latitude, an unusual pattern stemming from a change in the dominance of spring snowmelt in the north to the influence of the North American Monsoon in the south. Corresponding to the timing and variation in both the Start and Peak, mule deer reproduction was latest, lowest, and most variable at lower latitudes where plant phenology is timed to the onset of monsoonal moisture. Parturition dates closely tracked the growing season across space, lagging behind the Start and preceding the Peak by 27 and 23 days, respectively. Mean juvenile production increased, and variation decreased, with increasing latitude. Temporally, juvenile production was best predicted by primary productivity during summer, which encompassed late pregnancy, parturition, and early lactation. Our findings offer a parsimonious explanation of two key reproductive parameters in ungulate demography, timing of parturition and mean annual production, across latitude and changing climatological regimes. Practically, this demonstrates the potential for broad-scale modeling of couplings between climate, plant phenology, and animal populations using space-borne observations.

Concepts: Deer, Climate, Weather, White-tailed deer, Monsoon, Capreolinae, Mule deer, Odocoileus


White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), an ecologically and economically important species, are the most widely distributed large animals in North America. A recent study indicated that up to 25% of all white-tailed deer may be infected with Plasmodium odocoilei, a malaria parasite belonging to the distinct clade of ungulate-infecting Plasmodium spp. Because the clinical impact of P. odocoilei on deer health and survival is unknown, we undertook a retrospective longitudinal study of farmed Floridian O. virginianus fawns. We found that a substantial proportion (21%) of fawns acquire malaria infection during the first 8 months of life. Some animals naturally clear P. odocoilei infection, while other animals remain persistently positive. Importantly, we found that animals that acquire malaria parasites very early in life have poor survival compared to animals that remain uninfected. Our report thus provides the first evidence of a clinically significant impact of malaria infection in young deer.IMPORTANCE Malaria parasites of the genus Plasmodium are known to infect a variety of vertebrate hosts, including ungulates (hoofed mammals). A recent study found that up to a quarter of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in North America are infected with the parasite Plasmodium odocoilei In addition to occupying an important ecological niche, white-tailed deer are popular game animals and deer farming represents a rapidly growing industry. However, the effect of P. odocoilei infection in this ecologically and economically important ungulate species is unknown. Our work is significant because (i) we identified a high prevalence of P. odocoilei in farmed deer and (ii) we found evidence for both cleared and persistent infection, as well as an association with decreased survival of young fawns.

Concepts: Plasmodium, Deer, White-tailed deer, Hunting, Elk, Capreolinae, Mule deer, Moose


Coyotes recently expanded into the eastern U.S. and potentially have caused localized white-tailed deer population declines. Research has focused on quantifying coyote predation on neonates, but little research has addressed the potential influence of bedsite characteristics on survival. In 2011 and 2012, we radiocollared 65 neonates, monitored them intensively for 16 weeks, and assigned mortality causes. We used Program MARK to estimate survival to 16 weeks and included biological covariates (i.e., sex, sibling status [whether or not it had a sibling], birth weight, and Julian date of birth). Survival to 16 weeks was 0.141 (95% CI = 0.075-0.249) and the top model included only sibling status, which indicated survival was lower for neonates that had a sibling. Predation was the leading cause of mortality (35 of 55; 64%) and coyotes were responsible for the majority of depredations (30 of 35; 86%). Additionally, we relocated neonates for the first 10 days of life and measured distance to firebreak, visual obstruction, and plant diversity at bedsites. Survival of predation to 10 days (0.726; 95% CI = 0.586-0.833) was weakly associated with plant diversity at bedsites but not related to visual obstruction. Our results indicate that neonate survival was low and coyote predation was an important source of mortality, which corroborates several recent studies from the region. Additionally, we detected only weak support for bedsite cover as a covariate to neonate survival, which indicates that mitigating effects of coyote predation on neonates may be more complicated than simply managing for increased hiding cover.

Concepts: Life, United States, Deer, White-tailed deer, Hunting, Elk, Cougar