Habitat use, herd ecology, and seasonal movements of mule deer in the Texas Panhandle
Koerth, Benjamin Henry
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In Texas, mule deer occur in the Trans-Pecos and parts of the Panhandle. However, published information concerning habitat use and productivity of Texas mule deer herds has been limited to the Trans-Pecos area. This study was conducted: Cl) to determine macro-habitat preferences of mule deer; C2) to determine the extent of micro-habitat selection within the larger macro-habitat and which factors might account for this selection; C3). to estimate productivity population structure, and density of selected deer herds; and, (4) to estimate seasonal and annual home ranges for Panhandle mule deer. Study areas were selected along the Canadian River in Oldham County, representing deer habitat from the western portion of the Panhandle, and near Clarendon in Donley County, representing deer habitat from the eastern portion of the Texas Panhandle. Further, the Clarendon area had habitat supplement for deer in the form of winter wheat on cultivated fields and the Canadian River area did not. Juniper Breaks was the only vegetation type preferred by deer on the Canadian River area. Important vegetation types varied by season at Clarendon. Vegetation types containing the most screening cover received more deer use, with the exception of cultivated fields. These fields were important to deer during fall and winter when native forage was limited. Deer generally favored north and east aspects with close cover screens, steep slopes, and minimal human and livestock activity. Distance to water was also an important factor in habitat selection by deer. Deer did not appear to select for the most diverse plant communities. Average herd size for mule deer on the Canadian River was 2.9 animals compared to 3.9 animals for the Clarendon area. Larger herd sizes for the Clarendon area were primarily due to deer congregating on cultivated fields during fall and winter. Buck:doe and doe:fawn ratios were low compared to other mule deer herds in the West and Southwest indicating low recruitment into the population. Home range size of adult does on the Clarendon area was larger than for does on the Canadian River area, probably because of seasonal movements to and from cultivated fields. Bucks occupied a larger home range than does for either area. Also bucks engaged in rutting season travels for nearly 3 months, some of which involved movements of several miles.