Date of Award:

2001

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Ecology

Department name when degree awarded

Fisheries and Wildlife

Advisor/Chair:

John A. Bissonette

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Michael R. Conover

Abstract

I studied the behaviors, movement dynamics, habitat relationships, and population characteristics of Rocky Mountain mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) using urban and rural winter ranges in Cache Valley, Utah , from January 1994 to February 1998. There were 2 goals to my research endeavors. The first was to assess how and why the behaviors and demographic characteristics of urban deer differed from those of rural deer. The second was to assess the scale-dependent responses to habitat and the scale-dependent patterns of habitat use by deer living in each area. To accomplish the first goal, I compared the prevalence of migration, the spatial and temporal patterns of migration, and the spatial patterns of home range use between urban and rural deer. I also compared deer reproduction and population density in each area. I then explain how behavioral and demographic dissimilarities between urban and rural deer may have corresponded to differences in their net energetic gains (NEG) on seasonal ranges. These explanations, when combined graphically, generated a time-specific hypothesis of lower NEG by urban deer on a year-round basis. To accomplish the second goal, I developed new methodologies for analyzing animal movement pathways (which represent signatures of how animals respond to habitat), and animal patterns of habitat use . These methodologies explicitly incorporated the effects of spatial scale by employing fractal geometry and information theory. The results of these analyses showed that urban and rural deer responded to their habitats in similar ways at coarse resolutions of analysis (100-600 m), but differently at fine resolutions of analysis ( 4-60 m). I argue that similarities in habitat response at coarse resolutions reflected a common movement process that allowed deer maximize use of their home ranges while minimizing energetic expenditures. With respect to patterns of habitat use, urban deer concentrated in areas with concealment vegetation , which was highly fragmented across all resolutions of analysis. Rural deer, on the other hand, dispersed throughout areas containing shrubby vegetation at fine resolutions, and south-facing slopes at coarse resolutions. Interpretation of these results is discussed in detail.

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