Effects of an Intensive Predator Removal on White-tailed Deer Recruitment

: Few studies have investigated the impacts of predators on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) recruitment in the Southeast. We inferred predation impacts by comparing fawn-to-doe ratios before and after an intensive predator removal on an 800- ha study site in northeast Alabama. We estimated fawn-to-doe ratios pre-removal using camera surveys in September 2006 and February 2007, hunter observations, and web based cameras (n =11) mounted over foodplots (October through January). We removed 22 coyotes (Canis latrans) and 10 bobcats (Lynx rufus) during February through July 2007. Predator populations, as indexed using scat deposition rates and scent station surveys, declined to near zero just prior to fawning season. The September fawn-to-doe ratio increased from 0.18 to 0.24 and the February ratio increased from 0.41 to 1.20 in the year following predator removal. Hunter observation data indicated a pre-removal fawn-to-doe ratio of 0.35, compared to a ratio of 1.10 after the removal. Similarly, web camera surveys indicated an increase in recruitment rates from 0.52 fawns per doe to 1.33 following the removal. Our results suggest that predation on fawns may reduce recruitment in some areas of the Southeast. Intensive predator removals prior to fawning season may be effective at increasing recruitment in some areas where herd productivity does not meet management objectives.

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