Recognizing the danger zone: response of female white-tailed to discrete hunting events.
2 July 2018Sullivan, Jeffery; Ditchkoff, Stephen; Collier, Bret; Ruth, Charles; Raglin, Joshua
The landscape of fear theory proposes that prey should utilize habitat over space and time such that demographic risk is minimized. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) respond to temporally and spatially predictable threats posed by humans consistent with the landscape of fear theory. However, few studies examining the response of deer to hunting have accounted for the localized nature of risk. To determine if white-tailed deer are able to recognize and respond to risks posed by hunters relative to specific hunting locations, we equipped 38 female white-tailed deer with GPS collars August-December 2013-2015. Deer were generally found to increase use of feeders, food plots, and vulnerability zones during crepuscular and nocturnal periods as the hunting season progressed. However, deer use of areas around hunting stands decreased during the middle of the day and increased at night in the days immediately following a stand being hunted. We detected no change in use of areas around hunting stands during crepuscular hours in days following when a stand was hunted. Our results suggest that female white-tailed deer are able to recognize and respond to localized risks and do so with a gradient of responses based on localized risk history. However, response was only apparent when analysis accounted for the localized nature of risk, suggesting previous studies may have underestimated the ability of deer to respond to such threats.