Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Social and Scientific Factors Impacting Mule Deer Habitat Conservation in the Intermountain West
by Trulove, Nicholas F., M.A., Prescott College, 2013, 87; 1539500
Abstract (Summary)

For mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in the Intermountain West, alterations to habitat are outpacing strategies to mitigate human disturbance on critical seasonal ranges and migration routes.

Conserving mule deer habitat requires cooperation between a diverse group of stakeholders, state wildlife agencies, and federal land management agencies. The first chapter of this thesis explores the current and historical relationship between state wildlife agencies, citizen stakeholders, and federal agencies in order to highlight opportunities to improve cooperative habitat conservation in the United States. Conservation is a result of social, political, and economic action, but relies upon science to inform policy. The second chapter explores the seasonal habitat use of mule deer in southwestern Wyoming. In response to low fawn recruitment, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department deployed 15 GPS collars on adult female mule deer in an effort to enhance knowledge of mule deer population dynamics, migrations, and habitat use. The study captured two winter climate regimes, with greater winter severity during the 2010-11 winter compared to the winter of 2011-12. Deer migrated an average of 23.9 km (SE = 2.2) between seasonal ranges, and completed spring migrations nearly one month earlier following the milder winter of 2011-12 (t19 = 5.53, df = 19, P ≤ 0.001). Pooled, the average area of winter ranges (1057 ha, SE = 103, n = 26) was larger than summer ranges (423 ha, SE = 51 ha, n = 25) (t = −5.44, df = 49, P ≤ 0.001), with no increase or decrease in size of seasonal ranges detected between years (P = 0.243) according to a post-hoc Tukey HSD test. Between years, deer were observed to shift the geographic center of winter ranges (2.9 km, SE = 1.1, n = 12) to a larger degree than summer ranges (0.4 km, SE = 0.1, n = 12) (t = −2.20, df = 22, P = 0.040). Survival and pregnancy rates (86% and 96%, respectively) correlated closely with other mule deer studies, and neither factor appears to negatively impact population growth.

Identifying seasonal ranges and migration routes, and quantifying seasonal habitat use, will assist Wyoming Game and Fish Department efforts to protect mule deer seasonal habitats and migration routes, and direct vegetation manipulations intended to improve the nutritional quality of habitats. On average, winter ranges included a later percentage of shrub-dominated habitat (83.8%, SE = 0.3, n = 26) than summer ranges (57.5%, SE = 2.0, n = 25) (t = −4.42, df = 49, P ≤ 0.001). Summer ranges averaged a greater proportion of agricultural lands (2.8%, SE = 1.1, n = 25) and aspen (Populus tremuloides ) habitats (9.0%, SE = 2.2, n = 25) than winter ranges (0.1%, SE = 0.1, n = 26 and 0.2%, SE = 0.0, n = 26, respectively) (t = 3.03, df = 49, P = 0.004 and t= 3.86, df = 49, P ≤ 0.001, respectively). Mule deer ranges are primarily located on Bureau of Land Management (73%, SE = 2.8, n = 51) and privately owned (17.3%, SE = 2.9, n = 51) lands, highlighting opportunities for cooperative partnerships for mule deer habitat conservation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gannes, Lenny
Commitee: Sherman, Peter, Zornes, Mark
School: Prescott College
Department: Environmental Studies
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 52/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Management
Keywords: Migrations, Mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus, Seasonal habitats, State wildlife agencies, Wyoming
Publication Number: 1539500
ISBN: 9781303150265
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