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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date

2009

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Jonathan A. Jenks

Abstract

Damage to field corn (Zea mays) by deer can be substantial and result in millions of dollars lost annually. Numerous methods exist to minimize deer depredation, but all have met with varying degrees of success. Currently, no information is available on preference of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) for corn hybrids during the growing season and how preference might affect depredation patterns. I used captive adult female white-tailed deer (n = 4) in corn food plots to study the effect of herbicide treatments on deer use (treatment vs. no treatment) of corn in 2005, and to document preference among specific corn hybrids in 2006 and 2007. I documented preference based on deer use by plot area in relation to herbicide treatment and by consumption of each hybrid during timed trials. In 2005, I collected data weekly from 1 – 21 September to test the effect of herbicide treatments on deer use of corn; 67.2% of deer feeding activity occurring in herbicide treated areas. In 2006 and 2007, I tested deer feeding preference among corn hybrids. In 2006, I collected data weekly from 3 July – 15 September. Preference differed (P < 0.05) among hybrids based on deer use throughout the study period. Mean weekly number of feeding observations for hybrid A (Dekalb DKC44-92), hybrid B (Dekalb DKC46-28), and hybrid C (Dekalb DKC48-52) was 48.2 ± 6.6, 33.4 ± 5.9, and 34.5 ± 5.6, respectively. The preferred hybrid (hybrid A) was the earliest maturing, contained higher amounts of digestible dry matter (DDM) and had lower ear heights than other tested hybrids for 2006. In 2007, I collected data weekly from 25 June – 31 August. Mean weekly number of feeding observations during early growth was 50.8 ± 1.2 for hybrid A, 32.5 ± 3.4 for hybrid D (Dekalb DKC40-07), and 42.0 ± 4.5 for hybrid E (Dekalb DKC55-82); observations during the rapid growth period were 44.0 ± 10.3 for hybrid A, 67.7 ± 3.8 for hybrid D, and 50.0 ± 11.4 for hybrid E; and dry-down weekly observations were 40.0 ± 11.1 for hybrid A, 22.0 ± 2.4 for hybrid D, and 31.7 ± 1.5 for hybrid E. I documented preference among hybrids within growth phases (early growth [P < 0.05], rapid growth [P = 0.22], dry-down [P = 0.17]) and throughout the overall study period (P < 0.05). Hybrid E was not preferred during any period. For 2007 preferred hybrids matured earlier and contained higher amounts of DDM than the later maturing hybrid studied. The earliest maturing hybrid (hybrid D) had lower ear heights than the others tested. I also established experimental food plots in cooperation with private landowners in areas susceptible to depredation by free-ranging deer. I documented preference by the frequency of deer feeding observations on total plants within each plot. In 2006, I documented a difference in preference (P < 0.01) among corn hybrids; percentages of deer use were 45.9 ± 2.4% for hybrid A, 26.5 ± 1.4% for hybrid B, and 27.6 ± 3.5% for hybrid C. High-use corn hybrids at field food plot sites were the earliest maturing and contained higher amounts of DDM at the time of observations. In 2007, I documented a difference in preference (P = 0.08) among corn hybrids; mean percentage of plot damage was 44.2 ± 6.0% for hybrid A, 35.5 ± 4.0% for hybrid D, and 20.2 ± 3.9% for hybrid E. Earlier maturing corn hybrids at field food plot sites were preferred and contained higher amounts of DDM than the later maturing hybrid at the time of observations. Corn hybrids and husbandry practices desirable to deer (i.e., earlier maturing hybrids and fertilizer/herbicide applications) could be used to reduce damage to field corn by altering type and placement of corn by wildlife managers and crop producers.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

White-tailed deer--Food
Corn--Losses--Prevention
Corn--Effect of browsing on
Corn--Protection
Corn--Varieties
Wildlife depredation

Description

Includes bibliographical references (pages 87-101)

Format

application/pdf

Number of Pages

84

Publisher

South Dakota State University

Rights

Copyright © 2009. Joshua A. Delger. All rights reserved.

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