Population Ecology of Deer on Chickamauga Battlefield Park, Georgia

Our objectives were to determine population and ecological characteristics for an unmanaged white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) herd on Chickamauga Battlefield National Military Park, Georgia, and to predict the potential for overpopulation in this herd in the future. We radio-collared 67 deer on the park over 4 years (1991-1994). An additional 295 deer were killed by vehicles on the park's roads, and 36 were collected for herd health analysis in August of each year (8-10 deer per year). The range of estimates for population density was 10-41 deer/km2. The deer herd was in good nutritional condition: reproductive rates were high and kidney fat indices (KFI) closely reflected seasonal and sex-related physiological stresses (P = 0.0001), although the animals were never nutritionally deficient to the point that humerus marrow fat (HMF) declined (P = 0.082). Survival analysis revealed that hunting mortality (11.0% annually) outside the park boundary was similar to road-kill mortality (9.5% annually) within the park. Losses to poaching, disease, and accidental death were minimal. The abomasal parasite count (APC) averaged 1,195 (pooled over 4 years), thus indicating a deer herd at or near carrying capacity. A reduction in some of the present mortality factors due to increased suburbanization of the land around the park may allow the herd to exceed carrying capacity in the future.

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