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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Jonathen A. Jenks


white-tailed deer, minnesota, population, survival, seasonal distribution


In highly fragmented landscapes typical of southwest Minnesota, assessing the effects of seasonal movements is fundamental to white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population management. Understanding seasonal movement is critical to assessing the frequency of deer association and estimating risk for transmission of chronic wasting disease. Furthermore, knowledge of neonate survival and cause-specific mortality provides important information regarding reproduction, sex ratios, and how preseason mortality rates affect deer harvest strategies. However, biologists are usually forced to make educated guesses pertaining to these parameters because empirical data are difficult and costly to collect. Hence, data collected from this study will be used to improve farmland white-tailed deer population management and provide insight into the potential transmission of chronic wasting disease (CWD). Primary objectives of this study were to determine seasonal movements, patterns of association, and neonate survival and cause-specific mortality. Secondary objectives were to estimate seasonal home range and use and evaluate vaginal-implant transmitters as a tool for neonate capture. From September 2002 to May 2004, a total of 49 (47 adult, 2 fawn) female radiocollared deer was monitored via radio telemetry at Redwood Falls and Walnut Grove study sites in southwest Minnesota. A total of 6,511 locations was collected with a mean 95% error ellipse of 4.6 ha. A total of 56 seasonal movements was calculated during four migratory periods; fall 2002 (n = 13), spring 2003 (n = 17), fall 2003 (n = 17), and spring 2004 (n = 9). Mean distance migrated between seasonal ranges was 14.6 km (SE = 1.1). During 3 seasonal range periods a total of 111 individual home ranges was estimated; winter 2002-03 (n = 41), summer 2003 (n = 39), and winter 2003-04 (n = 31). Mean 95% home range size during winter and summer was 3.31 (SE = 0.32) and 2.57 km (SE = 0.50), respectively. Cold temperatures and snow depth had the greatest influence on migration. To understand the role movement has on the potential spread of CWD, fuzzy cluster analysis was conducted to provide insight into the dynamics of subpopulation movements and interaction. Determining the frequency of association between subpopulations enabled the assessment of risk for CWD transmission. The mean number of clusters individual deer were associated with during winter 2002-03, summer 2003, and winter 2003-04 at Walnut Grove was 1.11 (SE = 0.11, n = 9), 1.22 (SE = 0.15, n = 9), and 1.17 (SE = 0.17, n = 6), respectively. Mean percentage of deer associated within their own subpopulation during winter 2002-03, summer 2003, and winter 2003-04 at Walnut Grove was 99% (SE = 0.02, n = 9), 89% (SE = 0.04, n = 9), and 97% (SE = 0.01, n =6). Mean number of clusters each deer was associated with during winter 2002-03, summer 2003, and winter 2003-04 at Redwood Falls was 1.44 (SE = 0.01, n = 32), 1.21 (SE = 0.05, n = 31), and 1.42 (SE = 0.13, n = 26), respectively. Mean percentage of deer associated within their own subpopulation during winter 2002-03, summer 2003, and winter 2003-04 at Redwood Falls was 79% (SE = 0.04, n = 32), 94% (SE = 0.02, n = 31), and 83% (SE = 0.04, n = 26), respectively. During this study, Canid predation accounted for 100% (n = 10) of neonate mortalities. Pooled neonate survival rate was 0.72 for the period June to August 2003-04. A total of 14 vaginal-implant transmitters were placed in adult females during winter 2003 capture. Seven implants were recovered at birth sites, leading to the capture of 2 sets of triplets, 3 sets of twins and 2 single neonates. Vaginal-implant transmitters enabled location of birth sites to radiocollar neonates independent of habitat characteristics. The required number of search-hours per neonate captured was approximately 2.3 times higher using vehicle and ground searches compared to vaginal-implant transmitters. Results from this study are applicable to highly fragmented regions characterized by intense agriculture, high road density, low grassland and forest cover, and large fluctuations in climate. Long-term collection of region-specific radio telemetry data is necessary to improve the predictive capabilities of deer harvest models and to increase understanding of deer population dynamics.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

White-tailed deer -- Seasonal distribution -- Minnesota
White-tailed deer -- Minnesota -- Mortality
Deer populations -- Minnesota


Includes bibliographical references (page 62-78)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2005 Christopher C. Swanson. All rights reserved.