Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Jonathan A. Jenks


Habitat preference, cover characteristics of corn, movements, and sexual segregation patterns of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) were evaluated at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge (SLNWR) in winter (January - March) and spring (April - June), 1993 and 1994. An average of 20 radio-collared deer were monitored per season, which resulted in 4, 058 relocations. Habitat preference was assessed using 95 and 50% home range contours that were estimated using an adaptive kernel method. Agricultural crops (i.e., corn [Zea mays], row crops other than corn [e.g., soybeans [Glycine max]], small grains [e. g., wheat [Triticum aestivum]], and alfalfa [Medicago sativa]) were generally preferred in winter within the 95% home range; whereas, treebelts and dense-cover grasslands were preferred within the 50% core area. Corn, row crops other than corn, treebelts, and brome-dominated grasslands were preferred within the 95% home range in spring. Within the 50% core area, alfalfa and treebelts were preferred. Although agricultural crops were generally preferred on SLNWR, emergent vegetation and brome-dominated grasslands were important to white-tailed deer, regardless of habitat availability. Use of corn by white-tailed deer on SLNWR increased quadratically with corn height and density. Corn serves as food to white-tailed deer from early development until maturity. Corn also acts as quality cover starting when plants reach 35 - 66 cm in height until harvest. Activity (e.g., feeding, loafing) in corn varies with digestibility, density, and height of corn. Localized movements by deer on SLNWR were determined from mean 95 and 50% home ranges. Mean white-tailed deer 95% home range size was 437 ha during winter and spring. Core area movements varied depending on sex and age of deer. Males had larger core areas (i.e., 48 - 59 ha) than either yearling (i.e., 1.5-year-old) females (i.e., 22 ha) or adult (i.e., ≥ 2.5- year-old) females (i.e., 39 ha). Yearling females had the most restricted core area movement (i.e., 22 ha). Site fidelity was evaluated using multi-response permutation procedures (MRPP) and range-overlap estimates. Site fidelity between years (i.e., intraseasonal site fidelity) and between seasons (i.e., interseasonal site fidelity) on SLNWR was moderate. Sexual segregation was evaluated with respect to differential use of space and habitats using MRPP and range-overlap techniques. Deer on SLNWR exhibited moderate sexual segregation in winter and high sexual segregation in spring. However, sexual segregation with respect to d ifferential use of habitats did not exist. Habitat preference, movements, and sexual segregation patterns on SLNWR were all affected by landscape structure (i.e., wetland/agricultural complex} and density of deer. Changing agricultural practices promote optimal interspersion of habitats while maintaining necessary juxtaposition of habitats, which drives preference, importance, and movement patterns. Management strategies to control white-tailed deer on or near SLNWR must consider all aspects of these population characteristics in order to decrease depredation complaints on private lands.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

White-tailed deer -- Habitat -- South Dakota -- Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge
White-tailed deer -- South Dakota -- Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge -- Geographical distribution
White-tailed deer -- Seasonal distribution -- South Dakota -- Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge


Includes bibliographical references (page 83-94)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 1994 Brian J. Kernohan. All rights reserved.