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The Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit

The University of Montana

 Charles R. Henderson Jr., M.Sc. Candidate

Wildlife Biology

Advisor - Mike Mitchell

Natural Science Building - Room 312
Office Phone - 406-243-4348


B.A. University of Tennessee, Knoxville 1998

Project Title

Survival and resource selection in partially migratory White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Background and Objectives

After two harsh winters that significantly reduced the white-tailed deer  population in eastern Washington and a public initiative to change harvest regulations, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) implemented a study to better their understanding of the white-tailed deer population in this area.  My study focuses on providing WDFW with information regarding seasonal resource selection by female whitetails, seasonal movements, and determining survival rates of various age classes.  I will use this information to examine the broader question of what factors contribute to white-tailed deer range dynamics at the western edge of their geographic distribution.  Data is being gathered using a combination of global positioning system (GPS) and very high frequency (VHF) radio collars and ear tags.  I will use the information collected by these devices to estimate migration probabilities and create seasonal resource selection functions (RSF). I will then use migration probabilities to inform survival estimates in order to investigate the fitness effects of the decision to migrate or not.   I will use the RSFs to create seasonal probability of use maps.  Wildlife managers can then use this information to determine what actions will be most effective for changing whitetail populations to targeted levels.  The information concerning the underlying elements that influence whitetail range will provide managers and researchers with insight into how human land use patterns affect the expansion and contraction of this widely distributed species.

Current progress

We finished data collection at the end of February 2014.  I have begun data analysis and am in the process of writing up the results of the project.  I plan on finishing writing in June and will have my public defense at the beginning of the fall semester.  I will also be presenting results to various stakeholders in the late summer and early fall of 2014.

Clover trap set for capturing white-tailed deer

Setting up Clover Trap for Capturing

Whitetail doe in clover trap

Whitetailed Doe in Clover Trap

GPS collar being attached to Whitetail doe

Putting GPS Collar  on Whitetail Doe

Natural Sciences Room 205

Missoula, MT 59812