Fine-scale Movements of Adult Male White-tailed Deer in Northeastern Louisiana during the Hunting Season

Understanding movement patterns of adult male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is important to explaining population dynamics, predation interactions, gene flow, and disease spread. Relatively few studies have investigated movement ecology of mature male deer, although recent trends in hunter-harvest selectivity have led to an increased representation of this cohort in many herds. Multiple co-occurring variables influence spatiotemporal variation in deer movements, but individuals should move at an optimum rate to maximize individual health and fitness while minimizing high-risk encounters. We used GPS telemetry data from 24 adult male deer (≥2.5 years old) in northeastern Louisiana to determine fine-scale movement patterns during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 hunting seasons. We calculated half-hour step lengths and performed generalized linear mixed models to examine the effects of habitat, age, breeding chronology, photoperiod, and refugia from hunting on step length. We used informationtheoretic approaches to identify the most plausible model. On average, deer moved more in agriculture and mature hardwood areas. Also, older individuals moved less. Movements were greatest during the rut, especially at crepuscular and night hours. Our most plausible model suggested mature males tended to be more crepuscular in refuge areas where they were infrequently hunted compared to adjacent lands which were open to hunters the entirety of the season. Despite the amount of covariates we examined, our models explained a relatively small amount of movement variance. Future research should examine the degree of within-population heterogeneity in spatial behaviors and its resulting effects on individuals.

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