Preliminary Study Of The Effects Of Dogs On Radio·Equipped Deer In A Mountainous Habitat

A study was conducted on Mt. Mitchell Wildlife Management Area in w~stern North Carolina to determine the effects of dogs on movement patterns, behavior and mortality of radio-equipped deer in a rugged, mountainous habitat. Data were obtained from 11 of 15 radio-instrumented deer. Six were radio-monitored during the raccoon, bear and deer seasons and although four were legally harvested no mortality could be related to the effects of dogs. From February to July, eight of the radio-instrumented deer were subjected to 20 experimental chases by hunting hounds. Chases averaged 54 minutes in duration and 2.36 miles in distance with maximums of 165 minutes and 6.77 miles recorded. The chases were generally downhill and streams were crossed repeatedly. Chased deer quickly left their home ranges but returned in all cases where mortality did not occur. Three cases of mortality among radioinstrumented deer occurred during the period of experimental harassment, two deer being killed by the hounds, and one by a bobcat. One of the deer killed by dogs was caught within 3 minutes after release from a live trap. These and two non-instrumented deer in which dogs were the suspected cause of mortality were necropsied by Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study personnel. All of these animals apparently were predisposed to predation by one or more of the following: old age, injury or severe parasite damage particularly in the lungs. The dog related mortality that we recorded occurred during a 6-week period in late winter and early spring. In general, results of this study in mountainous habitat differed from those of a similar study in coastal plain habitats in the following ways: (1) escape routes during chases were much more predictable in the mountains; (2) the deer aPllarently suffered some injury during chases as a result of running in the rugged terrain; (3) return to home ranges after a chase required a longer time; and (4) some mortality occurred as a direct result of the dog chases. Possible factors resulting in these differences are discussed.

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