Space Use and Survival of White-Tailed Deer in a Disturbance-Driven System Containing a Restored Apex Predator

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the Big Cypress Basin of South Florida must cope with top-down and bottom-up forces, including frequent pyrogenic and hydrological disturbances and the threat of predation. These forces affect their space use, behavior, and survival. Recent changes to the regional hydrology and increased abundances the Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi), their primary predator in this system, call for a renewed look at how these forces affect this deer herd. To assess the effects of these forces on seasonal space use, behavior, and survival of deer, I analyzed GPS telemetry and camera trap data, highlighting the factors influencing deer space use across hydrological and biological seasons, and connected behavioral data captured on camera traps to female deer survival. Space use is primarily a function of intrinsic sex affects and landscape composition and configuration, and varies as resources and reproductive cycles fluctuate across seasons. Disturbance has little effect on space use, suggesting deer are well adapted to these disturbance regimes. Temperament in foraging behavior in female deer impacted survival, influencing prey catchability and potentially buffering prey populations against cycles of predation.



Behavior, Panther, Space use, Survival, White-tailed deer