Wildlife enterprises are increasingly important to ranch income in the western United States. Habitat management practices that facilitate wildlife are needed for optimal management of multiple-use ranches, particularly for economically important species, such as mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), that are declining throughout much of their range. We tested the effects of vegetation cover type, site characteristics, pinyon-juniper management treatments, and precipitation on body condition and size of spring-summer-autumn (SSA) home ranges of mule deer to assess habitat quality on the Corona Range and Livestock Research Center (CRLRC), a multiple-use research ranch in east central New Mexico. Accrual of lean tissue and body fat reserves in does was positively associated with use of mechanically cleared juniper, pinyon-juniper woodland, and savannah and increased annual and spring (April to June) precipitation. Size of SSA home ranges of does was negatively associated with use of pinyon-juniper woodland and savannah and mechanically cleared pinyon-juniper stands, indicating that habitat quality was positively associated with use of these types. Conversely, size of SSA home ranges was positively related to use of short grass prairie (does), proportion of short grass prairie in SSA ranges (bucks), and areas of low forage production classes (does, bucks). Overall, habitat quality for deer on CRLRC was most positively associated with a mix of thinned and unmanaged pinyon-juniper habitat. Conversely, habitat quality was negatively associated with use of short grass prairie, which is the most common (77%) vegetation cover type on CRLRC. Management for deer habitat should focus on increasing forage, particularly shrub communities, by opening pinyon-juniper communities while maintaining sufficient area in unmanaged woodland for cover. Deer responses are likely to be greater if management focuses on sites of higher forage production potential within 200 m of unmanaged pinyon-juniper stands.
Bender, Louis C.; Boren, Jon C.; Halbritter, Heather; and Cox, Shad
"Effects of Site Characteristics, Pinyon-Juniper Management, and Precipitation on Habitat Quality for Mule Deer in New Mexico,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 7
, Article 5.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol7/iss1/5