Damage to field corn (Zea mays) by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) can be substantial, resulting in millions of dollars lost annually. Numerous methods exist to minimize deer depredation, but all have met with varying degrees of success. Currently, little information is available on preference of white-tailed deer for corn hybrids during the growing season and how that preference might affect depredation patterns. We used adult female white-tailed deer in captivity to study the effect of herbicide treatments on deer-use (treatment versus no treatment) of corn in 2005 and to document preference among specific corn hybrids in 2006 and 2007 using manipulated corn food plots. In 2005, 67% of deer-feeding activity occurred in herbicidetreated areas; deer preferred to feed on the edges of food plots (78%). In 2006 and 2007, deer exhibited preferential patterns of feeding (P < 0.05) among corn hybrids throughout the study period and during most phenological growth phases of corn plants. Deer preference was not related to physical characteristics of hybrids but was related to days to maturity and nutritional content. Deer preferred earlier maturing hybrids that contained higher levels of digestible dry matter. Wildlife managers and crop producers could use corn hybrids and husbandry practices desirable to deer (i.e., earlier maturing hybrids with higher digestibility and fertilizer and herbicide application) to reduce damage to field corn by altering type and placement of corn.
Delger, Joshua A.; Monteith, Kevin L.; Schmitz, Lowell E.; and Jenks, Jonathon A.
"Preference of White-Tailed Deer for Corn Hybrids and Agricultural Husbandry Practices During the Growing Season,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 5
, Article 6.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol5/iss1/6