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Monday, January 28 • 4:40pm - 5:00pm
(WILDLIFE: CERVIDS) Understanding Relationships Between Deer Demographics, Deer Health and Forest Vegetation Through Partnerships with Wisconsin Hunters

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AUTHORS: Amanda McGraw, Daniel Storm – Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: Deer health reflects habitat quality, climate, and interspecific competition. Deer health, in turn, is reflected in body condition, including body weight and fat reserves. To relate deer health to habitat quality, climate, deer density levels, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources began a collaborative project with landowners enrolled in the state’s Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) to collect data on harvested deer and available forage on private properties. DMAP cooperators were recruited as to participate as citizen scientists through outreach including public presentations and email announcements during 2017 and 2018. Several training tools were developed to facilitate quality data collection by cooperators. Data collection kits containing all necessary supplies was provided to cooperators. In 2017 we received data from 57 DMAP cooperators for 280 deer. Cooperators measured several morphological characteristics indicative of body condition and overall health, such as antler dimensions and carcass weight. Cooperators extracted a tooth for aging via cementum annuli and photographed hearts for organ fat estimation. Age explained 66% of variance for female deer carcass weight (R<sup>2</sup> = 0.64, F<sub>1,6</sub> = 20.61, p < 0.001) and 81.7% of variance for male carcass weight (R<sup>2</sup> = 0.81 F<sub>1,6</sub> = 64.19, p < 0.001). Less variation in antler width (Deviance = 0.57, R<sup>2</sup> = 0.56, F<sub>1,6</sub> = 13.39, p < 0.001) and number of antler points (Deviance = 0.55, R<sup>2</sup> = 0.53, F<sub>1,6</sub> = 12.45, p < 0.001) was explained by age for male deer. We are continuing to explore the potential effects of density, habitat, and weather on deer body condition and antler development. This study highlights methods developed to ensure quality data collection by citizen scientists, and feasibility of operating a citizen-science based research project at a state-wide scale. We also provide insights about how habitat quality on private lands impacts deer health and productivity.

Monday January 28, 2019 4:40pm - 5:00pm

Attendees (11)