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Monday, August 6 • 4:30pm - Friday, August 10 •12:00pm
Student Poster: Effects of Habitat Selection and Predation on Cause-specific Mortality of White-tailed Deer Fawns in the Appalachian Mountains of Georgia, USA

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AUTHORS: Adam C. Edge, Cheyenne J. Yates, Gino J. D’angelo, Andrew R. Little – Daniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia; Charlie H. Killmaster, Kristina L. Johannsen – Game Management Section, Wildlife Resources Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources; David A. Osborn, Karl V. Miller – Daniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia

ABSTRACT: White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population densities have declined over the past few decades throughout the Chattahoochee National Forest in northern Georgia, USA. From 1979-2015, deer harvests on wildlife management areas (WMAs) within this Southern Appalachian Mountains region have declined by 85% and 97% for males and females, respectively [1]. However, nutritional condition indicators (body mass, yearling antler size, etc.) of harvested deer have steadily improved during this same time period, suggesting that habitat-related declines in fecundity are an unlikely cause of population declines. The area is characterized by a closed-canopy, forested habitat with a suppressed understory, possibly lacking adequate escape cover for fawns. Populations of black bears (Ursus americanus), coyotes (Canis latrans), and bobcats (Lynx rufus) have expanded in this region [2,3,4]. These species are known to impact fawn survival [5] and may be reducing fawn recruitment rates. High fawn predation rates can cause negative effects on long-term stability of deer populations [6].

To investigate survival and cause-specific mortality rates of white-tailed deer neonates in the southern Appalachians, we will capture 90 does ≥1.5 years of age, affix GPS collars, and insert vaginal implant transmitters (VITs) over 3 years (2018-2020) on the Blue Ridge and Cooper’s Creek WMAs in North Georgia. The resultant offspring will be captured within 24 hours of parturition and VHF collars will be affixed to 120 neonate fawns. We will monitor survival to 16 weeks of age and investigate fawn mortalities using saliva DNA analysis for predator identification and necropsies for other cause-specific indicators. We will triangulate locations to form minimum convex polygons for each collared fawn using ArcMap 10.4.1. and complete habitat surveys of each fawn’s home range recording both micro-habitat and landscape variables. Mortality rates with associated causes will be described and the effects of both biological characteristics and habitat variables on survival probabilities of fawns will also be assessed. We hypothesize fawn survival rates to fall within the range of similar studies in the southeastern United States where predation is prevalent at 14-33% [7,8,9,10]. We also expect habitat variables associated with closed-canopy forests to have a negative effect on neonate survival.

Monday August 6, 2018 4:30pm - Friday August 10, 2018 12:00pm
Assembly Hall Foyer

Attendees (5)