Influence of Time Lags and Population Segment in Density-physical Parameter Relationships in White-tailed Deer

Managers and biologists have long relied on relatively inexpensive and easily collected data from hunter-harvested deer to provide information for making harvest management decisions. We sought to better understand the influence of time lags and population segment (i.e., total adult and total herd density) on the density-physical parameter relationship. Nine long-term harvest data sets (15-31 years duration, median = 26 years) were acquired from populations located across the Southeastern United States which spanned several physiographic provinces and a wide range of densities (1-32 deer/km2). Population densities were derived from a combination of Downing and Wisconsin reconstructions. These densities were correlated to commonly used physical parameters in the current year and with one- and two-year lags. Time lags proved to be useful in identifying the relationship between physical parameters and density for both the total and adult segments of the herd. The one-year lag was useful, but the two-year lag had nearly twice as many populations demonstrating a significant (P < 0.05) relationship with density compared to the current year. Population segment also was important in identifying relationships. In all cases, more populations exhibited significant relationships when examined in the context of adult rather than total herd density. We suggest that the appropriate context for understanding density-physical parameter relationship in white-tailed deer is lagged adult densities. These results also offer support to the argument that Odocoileus populations operate in a density-dependent manner.

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