Browse Diversity and Physiological Status of White-Tailed Deer During Winter
Availability and use of 6 'indicator' browse species (Acer spicatum, Cornus stolonifera, Populus tremuloides, Corylus cornuta, Betula papyrifera and Abies balsamea) and 'other' browse species were studied in relation to the nutritional status of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) as assessed by chemical analysis of snow-urine (urine deposited in snow) in 3 winter yards in NE Minnesota during January-March 1985. During early and late winter, significant differences in proportional browse availability and selection occurred among the 7 browse categories within each yard. Abies balsamea was avoided completely for food, suggesting that nutritional inadequacy was not severe enough for this lower quality species to be selected. Chemical analysis of urine samples showed that deer in all yards were in an early phase of undernutrition. Results showed that subtle differences in food availability and diet diversity may be accompanied by quantifiable changes in the metabolic status of deer as winter progresses; it is recommended that maximum browse diversity should be a key consideration in management plans for improving deer habitat.