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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

Linking survival and resource selection in 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 create seasonal resource selection functions (RSF).  I will then use the RSFs to create probability of use maps which I will link with survival information to create maps that show what parts of the study area are most important to whitetails with the highest survival rates during various seasons of the year.  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

In January and February of 2012 we captured and outfitted 37 deer with radio tracking devices.  I have begun preliminary analysis of data collected thus far and will present it at the 2013 MT TWS meeting.  In addition, we are doubling our capture effort this winter in hopes of outfitting another 70-80 deer with radio collars and ear tags.  With the additional deer and the continued monitoring of previously captured individuals we hope to improve the accuracy of our conclusions and broaden the inferences we can make from this study.

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