Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Jonathan A Jenks


cause-specific mortality, neonates, nutritional indices, pathogen exposure, survival, white-tailed deer


Oil and gas development in North Dakota has resulted in the need for information regarding how increased activity has affected white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations. We evaluated white-tailed deer ecology in response to energy development and hypothesized that oil and gas development would negatively affect adult and neonate white-tailed deer due to increased vehicle traffic and human-related effects. We captured and radio-collared adult female and neonate white-tailed deer across three study areas: Dunn County, North Dakota, an area influenced by energy development, and Grant County, North Dakota, and Perkins County, South Dakota, areas not impacted by energy development at this time. We radio-collared 84 neonates and 150 adult females during 2014 and 73 neonates and 15 adult females during 2015. We observed 31 adult female and 44 neonate mortalities during the study. Predation was the greatest source of adult female (35%) and neonate mortality (61%). Intrinsic three- and six-month fawn survival models indicated capture type (six-months: 53%, SE = 0.07 and 74%, SE = 0.05, VIT and opportunistic six-month fawns, respectively) influenced survival. Extrinsic three- and six-month fawn survival models indicated that canopy cover at capture locations positively influenced fawn survival, whereas precipitation during 3-8 weeks of age negatively influenced fawn survival (six-months: 72%, SE = 0.04). Distance to nearest oil well did not influence survival (β = -0.21, SE = 0.56). We also estimated survival rates based on study area (Dunn, Grant, and Perkins counties) and season (Post-hunt, January-April; Pre-hunt, May-August; and Hunt, September-December). Dunn County displayed the highest annual survival rate (96%, SE=0.02) followed by Perkins (93%, SE = 0.03) and Grant (75%, SE = 0.06) counties. Seasonal survival was highest (100%) during Pre-hunt and Post-hunt periods in Dunn and Perkins counties and was lowest during the Post-hunt period in Grant County (87%). We analyzed 2014 and 2015 blood serum separately because all chemistry tests in Grant County differed (p < 0.01) between 2014 and 2015 except aspartate aminotransferase, blood urea nitrogen, and calcium. We found differences (p < 0.05) in creatinine kinase, globulin, glucose, lactate dehydrogenase, magnesium, sodium, and total protein values among study areas during 2014. Pathogens with the highest antibody prevalence included West Nile Virus (85%), epizootic hemorrhagic disease (48%), and malignant catarrhal fever (32%). We speculate that low sodium values and West Nile Virus may be contributing to low neonate survival rates in Grant County. Serum chemistry differences may be attributed to differences in forage quality and availability across study areas. Our results indicated that oil and natural gas development did not negatively affect white-tailed deer survival and health. Other density-dependent factors likely explained differences in survival across study areas; nevertheless, further monitoring is needed to assess long-term responses of white-tailed deer to energy development.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

White-tailed deer -- Effect of energy development on -- North Dakota.

White-tailed deer -- Effect of energy development on -- South Dakota.

White-tailed deer -- Effect of habitat modification on -- North Dakota.

White-tailed deer -- Effect of habitat modification on -- South Dakota.

Deer populations -- North Dakota.

Deer populations -- South Dakota.

Oil and gas leases -- Environmental aspects.

Gas well drilling -- Environmental aspects.

Oil well drilling -- Environmental aspects.

Petroleum industry and trade -- Environmental aspects.

Habitat (Ecology)


Includes bibliographical references



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright