Mule Deer Demographics and Parturition Site Selection: Assessing Responses to Provision of Water
AuthorBush, Anthony Paul
AdvisorStewart, Kelley M
Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences
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Providing permanent sources of water to benefit wildlife where this resource is limited has been a common management tactic since the 1940s. Effects of water provisioning on vital rates, corresponding life-history characteristics, and resulting population dynamics have been difficult to quantify. I used a population of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in 3 treatment areas with differing levels of permanently available water in Mojave National Preserve, California to investigate population-level responses to provision of water from 2009 to 2014. I investigated the effects of provision of water on pregnancy and fetal rates as well as adult and neonate survival. In addition I investigated the influence of provision of water on parturition sites resource selection patterns. I identified no effect of provision of water on demographic rates. Furthermore, insufficient sample size prevented investigating differences in parturition site resource selection between study areas. I identified a positive effect of body condition, and a negative effect of timing of birth on neonatal survival. Adult survival differed between years, and within years survival differed during the May-June fawning period and was affected by drought conditions. Mule deer in this study system placed parturition sites at higher elevations, and in closer proximity to permanent water sources than random locations, and selected areas with intermediate levels (30-50%) of shrub canopy cover.