Survival and Cause-specific Mortality of Adult Male White-tailed Deer Managed Under the Quality Deer Management Paradigm

Quality deer management (QDM) advocates the protection of younger-age white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) bucks, but the subsequent survival of these animals remains unknown. We conducted a study to investigate the impact and importance of harvest and non-harvest mortality factors on adult male white-tailed deer in Mississippi on areas managed under QDM. We captured 408 deer and fitted 238 adult bucks with radio collars from February 1990 until January 1997. During the study, we documented 185 mortalities, which were used to estimate survival and cause-specific mortality rates. Harvest-related and natural mortality accounted for 75% and 12% of buck losses, respectively. Annual survival rates ranged from 0.50 to 0.82 and differed among age classes. Seasonal survival rates ranged from 0.48 to 1.0, with survival during February-September greater than during October-January. Seasonal survival rates did not differ for 1.5-year-old bucks but were different among seasons for 2.5, 3.5, 4.5, and ≥5.5-year-old age classes. Natural mortality rates ranged from 0.02 to 0.15 and differed among age classes. The 1.5- and ≥5.5-year-old bucks had the lowest and highest natural mortality rate, respectively. Hunting mortality ranged from 0.16 to 0.44 and was different among age classes. Males in the <2.5-year age classes had relatively high harvest rates on areas where they were supposed to be protected by selective harvest criteria (i.e., antler restrictions). QDM is an effective management technique for protecting <2.5-year-old bucks. Our research demonstrated if <2.5-year-old bucks are passed up that they will be available for harvest during the next season because these bucks have very little natural mortality.

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