Population Characteristics of a White-tailed Deer Herd in an Industrial Pine Forest of North-central Louisiana

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are the most important game species in Louisiana and throughout the southeastern United States. Likewise, the forest products industry represents the most important agricultural commodity in Louisiana, and industrial landowners frequently lease their properties to sportsmen specifically for white-tailed deer hunting. We assessed survival, space use, and habitat selection of white-tailed deer on a 3885-ha industrial forest in Union Parish, Louisiana, 2009-2010. We radio-marked 47 (23M, 24F) mature deer and ear-tagged 13 (6M, 7F) fawns. Male home range sizes varied seasonally and were largest during spring, whereas female home range sizes did not differ seasonally. Forest openings were important to both sexes when establishing home ranges, whereas 0- to 4-year-old pine and 13- to 19-year-old pine stands were important when selecting core use areas. Within home ranges, males and females consistently used 5- to 12-year-old pine stands across all seasons. Survival differed by season but not by sex. Survival rates in spring, summer, and fall for adult males were 0.95, 0.97, and 0.54, respectively, and for adult females were 0.95, 0.97, and 0.56 respectively. All mortality during fall was hunting-related, whereas mortalities during spring and summer resulted from unknown causes. We suspect that the extensive use of bait by hunters influenced space use and survival, and further research is needed to determine effects of baiting on susceptibility of harvest of different age classes and sexes. Implementation of antler restrictions and education concerning aging deer and selectivity at harvest could likely improve age structure of the herd.

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