Disturbance effect of free-running dogs on deer reproduction

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Dogs were used to run white- tailed deer at the Dublin Arsenal of the Radford Army Ammunition Plant between 22 April and 3 June 1972, and from 21 October 1972 to 26 May 1973. During the first phase of the study, trained deer hounds were used to chase deer in one-half of the study area, using the other half as a control area. During the second phase, hounds and non-hounds were used, and the entire study area was used for chasing. No significant differences in fawns per doe surviving to late summer censuses were found between deer run by dogs and those not subjected to chasing.

No permanent home range changes as a result of dog chasing were noted, but some temporary changes did occur. These changes were usually of short duration, with most deer returning to their normal home ranges within a few days.

Dog chases were usually of less than 30 minutes duration, and, due to the high density of the herd, dogs often switched trails and did not chase the same deer for extended periods. Hounds appeared to be more effective and persistent trailers, while non-hounds were generally faster.

No healthy deer were caught by the dogs. In all chases, deer stayed well ahead of the dogs, with the exception of a deformed piebald fawn that was caught easily.

Reported dog kills were investigated whenever possible. These reports were either inaccurate, or involved deer that were previously injured or for other reasons not in good physical condition.

Dogs were not detrimental to this densely populated study herd, either by limiting its reproduction, inducing permanent home range changes, or killing individual deer.