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.

Starting page
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ID
19853