Editor's choice March/April 2023

Submitted by editor on 23 February 2023. Get the paper!

The editor’s choice is the article by Johnson et al.:

Assessing the Implications of Sexual Segregation when Surveying White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus Virginianus)”

Ungulates and many other game species are traditionally hunted during the mating season. As hunting planning takes some time, population surveys are usually carried out several weeks to months before the hunting season to determine hunting quotas.

For example, in parts of central Europe, red deer (Cervus elaphus) are surveyed at winter feeding sites to determine hunting quotas for the following summer and autumn. Similarly, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the south-west of the USA are hunted in autumn based on camera trap surveys in late summer. Hunting plans are thus based on the assumption that the spatial distribution of populations remains unchanged across seasons. However, it is obvious that surveys at times of sexual separation are hardly suitable to predict local abundance and spatial distribution during the mating season, when the sexes are likely to be mixed. The result is often lively disputes between managers and hunters.

In their paper, Johnson et al. assess effects of shifts in space use on pre-season camera surveys of white-tailed deer. They convincingly show that the sexes were highly segregated during the pre-season surveys, but highly overlapped during the breeding months, when males shifted their distribution towards females. Thus, if management units are smaller than a population’s movements, pre-season surveys may not sufficiently reflect numbers available for harvest during the hunting season. The solution may be in cooperative harvest planning and unbiased survey methods, as well as better awareness of the temporal and spatial dynamics of segregation versus attraction between the sexes.

/Ilse Storch