The Dynamic Aspects of Deer Populations Utilizing a Refuge

The impact of refuges on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus drginianus) movements and population dynamics, although often discussed, has never been clearly documented in the Southeast. This study used radio telemetry, modified Lincoln Index censusing, sex ratio counts, kill data and observations of40 marked deer from March 1973 through November 1974 to analyze movements between Berry College Refuge and contiguous hunted areas in northwestern Georgia. Three major patterns of movement seemed apparent; (1) relatively sedentary movement patterns of resident refuge deer, (2) dispersal of 1.5 and 2.5-year-old bucks from the refuge coincident with the onset ofrut, and (3) migration of a large contingent of deer (mainly does) onto the refuge concident with the opening of hunting season. Bucks dispersing from the refuge sustained considerable mortality from hunting. The concurrent influx of deer onto the refuge, however, nearly doubled the population (P < 0.05). These migrants remained on the refuge (where an abundant food supply was available) until late winter when they gradually returned to their summer ranges. Implications of our results are discussed regarding the concept of refuges in deer management, both as useful tools in the case of over-harvested herds and as difficult problems in situations where overpopulation exists.

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