Canadian Forest Service Publications
Manipulating forage and risk avoidance to increase white-tailed deer vulnerability to hunters. 2020. Houde, N.; Tremblay, J.P.; Thiffault, N.; Côté, S. Wildlife Biology 2: 1-9
Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 40165
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A tradeoff between forage acquisition and predation avoidance contributes to shape space use by herbivores. The manipulation of structural components of the habitat, such as forage and forest cover may alter this tradeoff. The idea of influencing space use of herbivores is appealing for wildlife managers that aim to locally modify herbivore densities and increase their vulnerability to hunting. We attempted to manipulate the tradeoff between forage acquisition and risk avoidance of whitetailed deer Odocoileus virginianus on Anticosti Island (Québec, Canada) using experimental hunting fields varying in forage production (fertilized or unfertilized fields) and residual forest cover (30 or 60-m-wide forested strips between fields). In this system with high deer density, no natural predator and limited forage, fecal group surveys and camera traps demonstrated greater use of fertilized fields. Residual forest cover did not impact habitat use, suggesting that use of the experimental fields was mainly driven by the benefits of foraging compared to the costs of avoiding hunters. Deer vulnerability to hunting, however, differed with residual forest cover: hunters saw more deer per hour in fields separated by 30-m-wide forested strips compared to fields separated by 60-m-wide forested strips. That hunters did not detect the difference in deer use between fertilized and unfertilized fields suggests that deer vulnerability to hunting and deer use could be modified by different structural components of the habitat. Our results provide useful insights for wildlife managers that have to deal with conflicting goals such as maintaining hunter satisfaction with high observation rates of deer while reducing the negative impacts of high deer densities on their body condition and, on the composition and structure of forests.