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White-tailed deer study helps biologists

From the North Dakota Game and Fish Department

-- A study of white-tailed deer in the Wing-Tuttle area is providing North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologists with invaluable information.

Bill Jensen, big game biologist, said research focuses on seasonal movements, mortality factors, habitat use, population biology and other management questions. The study involved radio-collaring 62 adult females. In addition, four adult males, eight female fawns and six male fawns were ear-tagged.

"We contacted area landowners in the fall of 2009 to let them know what we would be doing," Jensen said.

In mid-February 2010, 48 deer were fitted with collars and tagged, and another 14 were collared this past winter. As of April 1, South Dakota State University graduate student Brian Schaffer has made more than 3,700 relocations of these radio-collared deer.

Some of the information biologists have obtained centers on general movement, and Jensen said the average distance deer move from summer to winter habitat is 3.8 miles. "The farthest a deer traveled was 17 miles, and the flip side of that is some didn't move much as they stayed in the immediate vicinity of where they were collared," he said.

A total of 16 radio-collared deer have died; one from starvation, four were harvested by hunters, three from vehicles, two from predation and six from undetermined causes.

"The two confirmed deaths by coyote predation had been observed on deer with prior physical problems," Jensen said. "Both of these deer were in very poor physical condition, one with an injured front leg and one with a fractured hind leg. These two were observed in progressively declining physical condition for four to six weeks prior to their death. This shows the value of having someone visually monitor the condition of deer."

Schaffer was able to monitor the reproductive performance of 36 radio-collared adult females during the summer and fall of 2010; 26 were observed with one fawn and 10 had two fawns. Visual observations were not made on the remaining 12 does and their reproductive performance is unknown.

The study continues through December with a final report expected next summer.

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