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Seasonal movements of black-tailed deer on northern Vancouver Island Harestad, Alton Sidney

Abstract

Columbian black-tailed deer (Qdocoileus hemionug cplumbianus Richardson) were radio-tagged in a deep snowfall region on northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. These deer were monitored to determine seasonal movements and habitat use. Deer exhibited either resident or migratory movement patterns. Resident deer made seasonal shifts in their home range centres but their seasonal home ranges overlapped. In migratory deer, summer home ranges were separated from both spring and winter home ranges, although their spring and winter home ranges overlapped. Altitudinal migrations occurred by deer moving between high and low elevation habitats. Horizontal migrations occurred by deer moving between a small tributary valley and the main valley. Seasonal movements of black-tailed deer result from habitat selection by deer seasonally moving to more favourable habitats as determined by more available energy and nutrients, and lower risk of predation. The causal differences between vertical and horizontal migrations as well as seasonal shifts in home range centres can be resolved by a model of habitat selection based on these factors. The densities of available digestible dry matter in Amabilis Fir - Twisted Stalk, and Mountain Hemlock - Copperbush associations are comparable with those in the shrub and conifer serai stages. This abundance of deer food in high elevation habitats suggests that forest harvesting in high elevations will not affect deer populations, if their other habitat requirements are met. In areas where forested summer ranges already exist, low elevation logging of Sword Fern - Western Red Cedar, Deer Fern - Western Hemlock, and Western Hemlock - Plagiothecium associations will provide deer with sources of abundant food closer to their winter ranges than the high elevation summer ranges. Use of these food sources may result in only a redistribution and not an increase in the deer population. Logging of Amabilis Fir - Western Hemlock, Salal - Douglas-fir, and Salal - Western Hemlock associations may be detrimental to deer populations because of their need for these habitats during winter. Management policies emphasizing preservation of severe winter range could be detrimental to deer populations. Habitat management for black-tailed deer must include provision of mild winter range as well as severe winter range. Because mild winter range provides deer with greater amounts of available energy and nutrients, it may be as important to the over-winter survival of deer as is severe winter range. The mobility of black-tailed deer and their sensitivity to snow suggest that few deer would be trapped in high elevations by early snowfalls. Corridors joining high and low elevations appear unnecessary to facilitate deer migrations.

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