Apparent Survival of White-tailed Deer in the Mississippi River Delta of Louisiana

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations located at the mouth of the Mississippi River are of historical significance as they have been a major source for restocking in Louisiana since the 1960s. Apparent population declines of these deer since the 1990s led the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to initiate a study to gather demographic data on white-tailed deer on the 46,540-ha Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area (PALWMA). We captured and individually marked 57 deer on PALWMA from 2007 to 2012. We monitored travel corridors using un-baited trail cameras and recorded all sightings of marked and unmarked individuals until 2014. We collected 4,325 photographic observations of white-tailed deer with 340 (8%) resightings of individually marked deer. Estimated apparent annual survival for female and male white-tailed deer was 0.48 ± 0.07 and 0.78 ± 0.06, respectively. We found that recapture probability was significantly greater for tagged males (0.81 ± 0.11) than females (0.54 ± 0.08). We found no evidence that white-tailed deer survival was influenced by the three tropical systems that directly impacted our study site. Overall, our estimates of female annual survival were low relative to estimates from other population studies from the southeastern United States. As coastal marsh habitats represent an important component of statewide deer harvest in Louisiana and because environmental studies show coastal habitats are slowly degrading in Louisiana, our results suggest that additional focus on female white-tailed deer demography and harvest rates are necessary in coastal regions of Louisiana.

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