The University of Arizona

Observations on white-tailed deer and habitat response to livestock grazing in south Texas.

W.E. Cohen, D.L. Drawe, F.C. Bryant, L.C. Bradley

Abstract


Since short duration grazing (SDG) was introduced to Texas, concern for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) has magnified because they are a species of major economic importance to ranchers. The objective of this study was to observe the effects of SDG and continuous yearlong grazing (CG) on home ranges and movement indices of female deer, and on forage availability. The study was conducted on the Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife Refuge, near Sinton, Texas. The study area included a 10-pasture SDG cell and a CG pasture, each stocked at 2.8 ha/auy. Cattle grazed each SDG paddock 2 to 8 days; paddocks were rested 32 to 47 days. A total of 3,961 radio-fixes from 11 does was collected over an 11-month study period in 1983. Monthly and annual home ranges of does were similar (P > 0.05) between SDG (207 ha) and CG (229 ha). However, white-tailed deer traveled 35% more (P & 0.05) between fixes in SDG (449 m) than in CG (332 m) from May to August, a time of greatest physiological and nutritional stress for female deer in south Texas. Also, does avoided (P & 0.05) cattle during 2 cycles of the SDG rotation. The primary trend observed was for the deer under SDG to avoid cattle concentrations by alternating between preferred habitats rather than a predictable paddock-to-paddock movement. In general, there were few differences in total grass and forb cover between SDG and CG. However, several forage species important to deer were less frequent (P & 0.05) under SDG than CG.

Keywords


Odocoileus virginianus;rotational grazing;Texas

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