Temporal and Sex-related Differences in use of Baited Sites by White-tailed Deer

Many of the methods used to estimate white-tailed deer population parameters from camera images are reliant upon the assumption that rates of detectability are similar between both sexes and all age groups of deer. e assumption of equal detectability may not be valid when bait is used to attract deer to survey sites due to physical and behavioral differences between deer groups. We placed trail cameras set at 1-minute time-lapse intervals at randomly selected sites baited with corn inside the Auburn University Deer Research Facility, a 175-ha enclosure containing a captive population of marked white-tailed deer, to investigate temporal and sex-related differences in deer use of baited sites. Surveys were conducted during three 10-day periods (prerut, rut, and postrut) in 2013-2014 to quantify deer use of baited sites (i.e. total number of individual adult deer visiting sites, number of visits by individuals, and duration of visits by individuals to baited sites). We found evidence that both sexes exhibited seasonal differences in use of baited sites, and these differences were more pronounced in male deer. Male deer visited sites more frequently and made longer visits during prerut than during rut and postrut; however, more (~70%) individual male deer were viewed at baited sites during rut and postrut than during prerut. We also observed differences between sexes in use of baited sites that varied in relation to the breeding season. Males spent more time than females at baited sites during prerut and postrut visits; however, females spent more time than males during rut. Deer use of baited sites was most similar between adult male and female deer during postrut, and we suggest that baited surveys conducted during postrut may provide the best opportunity to obtain unbiased adult sex ratio and abundance estimates. However, individuals utilizing camera surveys for deer should consider local factors that may contribute to sex-related differences in use of baited sites when selecting survey periods and camera settings.

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