The University of Arizona

White-tailed deer habitats in the central Black Hills.

C.S. DePerno, J.A. Jenks, S.L. Griffin, L.A. Rice, K.F. Higgins


White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus dacotensis Zimm.) numbers in the central Black Hills have declined since the middle 1970s. Population status has been documented by a decline in hunter success, deer reproductive success, and fawn survival. Most management agencies believe habitat deterioration is the primary cause of population decline in the Black Hills. We evaluated habitat selection for a white-tailed deer herd in the central Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. From July 1993-July 1996, 73 adult and yearling doe and 12 adult and yearling buck white-tailed deer were radiocollared and visually monitored. Habitat Information was collected at 4,662 white-tailed deer locations and 1,087 random locations. During winter, white-tailed deer selected ponderosa pine- (Pinus ponderosa P. &C. Lawson) deciduous and burned pine cover types. Overstory-understory habitats selected included pine/grass-forb, pine/bear-berry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng.), pine/snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus L.), burned pine/grass-forb, and pine/shrub habitats. Structural stages selected included sapling-pole pine stands with > 70% canopy cover, burned pine sapling-pole and saw-timber stands with < 40% canopy cover. During summer, white-tailed deer selected pine-deciduous, aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.), aspen-coniferous, spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss), and spruce-deciduous cover types. Overstory-understory habitats selected included pine/juniper Juniperus communis L.), aspen/shrubs, spruce/juniper, and spruce/shrub habitats. Structural stages selected included pine, aspen, and spruce sapling pole stands with all levels (0-40%, 41-70%,71-100%) of canopy cover. Results supported low habitat quality as a factor involved with the decline of the deer population. We recommend that habitat management techniques, such as aspen regeneration and prescribed burns, be used to Improve the habitat base in the central Black Hills.



population decrease;habitat destruction;seral stages;grazing date;habitat selection;habitats;understory;Populus tremuloides;gender differences;South Dakota;Odocoileus virginianus;winter;prescribed burning;summer;Wyoming;plant communities;diets

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