Behavioral Responses of Female White-tailed Deer to Small Game Hunting Activities

Environmental and anthropogenic stimuli can impact a variety of species' behavioral ecology. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) re- spond both spatially and temporally to various types of disturbance; however, our understanding of how disturbance impacts deer behavior is typically regulated to studies where white-tailed deer are the targeted species. We used GPS data collected from female white-tailed deer (n=10) to evaluate space use in response to small game hunting activities based on whether an individual was within the hunted area (actively disturbed) or outside (passively disturbed). We found that deer movements per 20-minute period did not differ between actively (59 m, SD=26.21) and passively (57 m, SD = 52.82) disturbed individuals. We also found no difference in home range (99% utilization distributions) or core range (50% utilization distribu- tions) size between actively and passively disturbed individuals. However, we found that actively (6.56%, SD=11.05) disturbed individuals exhibited lower site fidelity to pre-hunting core ranges than those disturbed passively (21.03%, SD = 29.07). However, we found that white-tailed deer had high site fidelity to their pre-hunt home ranges during disturbance (84.2% [SD = 24.83]). Thus, we suggest that the impact of small game hunting on white- tailed deer is likely limited, and that any increase in small game hunting activity on private lands should have limited impact on white-tailed deer move- ments or distribution.

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