Migratory Strategies, Fawn Recruitment, and Winter Habitat Use by Urban and Rural Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

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European Journal of Wildlife Research



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We examined the migratory strategies of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) using adjacent urban and rural winter ranges in northern Utah in relation to deer demography and patterns of habitat use. Urban deer were more likely to be migratory than rural deer, even though migratory animals from the two herds intermixed on a common, high-elevation summer range. Urban deer exhibited lower fawn recruitment than rural deer; but within each herd, demographic characteristics of migratory and nonmigratory animals suggested that game theory explained the ratios of deer adopting each behavior. Estimates of animal numbers and available habitat did not reveal clearly whether deer densities differed on the two winter ranges. However, patterns of habitat use by urban deer were so clustered around areas of concealment vegetation that animals probably experienced higher local densities than rural animals. In addition, the clustered patterns of habitat use by urban deer resulted in incomplete use of available forage. This may have contributed to the relatively poor fawn recruitment by urban deer, a phenomenon that appeared to be perpetuated by their strong fidelity to winter range.

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