Increasing urban sprawl leads to more human-wildlife conflicts. To formulate effective management recommendations, reliable estimates of wildlife population sizes are needed. Fair Oaks Ranch, TX, spans 3,300 ha, 43 km north of San Antonio, and has an overabundant white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population. My objective was to determine a population estimate, survival estimate, and home range size for white-tailed deer throughout Fair Oaks Ranch. Using this information I modeled management scenarios to reduce the population by 10%, 20%, and 30% percent. I captured 458 deer (M:178, F:280) during January-April 2012 and January-March 2013 using drop-nets baited with corn throughout the city. Captured deer were sexed, aged, and given unique ear-tag combinations. Thirty six males and 32 females were fitted with VHF transmitters and located weekly (Apr.-Aug. 2012, Jan.-Aug. 2013) using a receiver and portable antenna. For population estimates marked and unmarked deer were counted along 3 pre-determined driving transects throughout the city. ArcGIS and the home range analysis extension was used to determine fixed kernel home ranges. Average male 95% home ranges were 32.7±4.7 ha (SE) in 2012 and 65.0±13.0 ha in 2013. Average female 95% home ranges were 16.8±2.6 ha in 2012 and 18.9±2.8 ha in 2013. Home ranges were similar to other urban studies and the only deer that moved beyond city boundaries were those deer whose home range was located near the city boundary. For surveys that included fawns the average MARK population was 1,485 deer and 1,500 deer for Distance. The average population for surveys without fawns was 1,216 for MARK and 1,231 for Distance. Distance sampling proved to be the better option for population monitoring in the future because marked animals are not needed. This information allowed me to model the effectiveness of different management strategies and associated costs for each management option. Trap, Transport, and Process will reduce the deer population the quickest, while being the most cost effective management strategy. Costs range from $155-175/deer within the first 3 years of management. Depending on the level of reduction or treatment and whether density dependence occurs, the target population of 310 deer may or may not be reached in management models presented. For management strategies to be successful, survey methods, demographic information, and home ranges of urban deer populations must be understood.
August 2, 2016
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