An assessment of the nutritional status and habitat quality of a southwestern Virginia deer herd

dc.contributor.authorDutton, Harry Johnen
dc.contributor.departmentFisheries and Wildlife Sciencesen
dc.description.abstractTo determine the causes for low hunter kill and presumed poor population growth of the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) herd in the High Knob (HK) area of Scott and Wise Counties, Virginia, the relative abundance and nutritional status of the deer herd and the habitat quality of the HK area were studied relative to a deer herd and an area in the Stony Creek (SC) section of Giles County, Virginia, known to produce deer of good physical size and antler development and sustained high hunter harvests. Pellet-group surveys, deer collections in September and March, check station data on hunter-killed deer, soil sampling, and quantitative and qualitative forage analyses were used in assessing the HK deer herd and area. The extent to which poaching, free-roaming dogs, and winter weather might be affecting the HK deer herd also was investigated. Pellet group density was significantly lower (P = 0.004) at HK relative to SC and was believed to be indicative of a somewhat lower herd density at HK. In September, the condition of the HK deer herd was similar to that of the SC deer herd. However, the average number of parasites in the abomasums of HK deer was significantly greater (P = 0.0002) than in the abomasums of SC deer. Yearling bucks killed by hunters at HK had significantly lower eviscerated body weights (P = 0.0001), while all bucks killed by hunters at HK had smaller antler beam diameters (P = 0.006) and fewer antler points (P = 0.0001) relative to hunter-killed deer at SC. Because of an abnormally abundant acorn crop at SC in the fall of 1985 and an abnormally mild winter at HK and an abnormally severe winter at SC in 1986-87, the nutritional condition of the HK deer herd relative to the SC deer herd in March in a "normal" year was difficult to ascertain. However, it was inferred that in a "normal" year the HK deer herd would be in worse physical condition in March relative to the SC deer herd. Soil pH, organic matter, and mineral levels were significantly lower (P < 0.1) at HK than at SC. The HK area had significantly greater (P < 0.1) quantities of various vegetation categories than did the SC area in September, 1986. Quantities of common forages consumed by deer in winter were believed to be similar or slightly lower at HK than at SC. However, the average yearly biomass of acorns was believed to be substantially lower at HK than SC due to the greater percentage of the HK area comprised of yellow poplar dominated forest stands. No clear patterns between areas were evident among the forages analyzed for nutritional components. Poaching and harassment by free-roaming dogs were not believed to be substantially different between areas. However, winter weather severity was much greater at HK that at SC. Based on a 10-year average, snowfall is normally over 3X greater at HK relative to SC. Thus, it was concluded that the HK area has a reduced capacity to support highly dense deer herds due to a lack of quality forages in late fall through late winter and greater winter severity relative to SC.en
dc.format.extentxii, 168 leavesen
dc.publisherVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen
dc.relation.isformatofOCLC# 17489890en
dc.rightsIn Copyrighten
dc.subject.lccLD5655.V855 1987.D877en
dc.subject.lcshWhite-tailed deer -- Virginiaen
dc.subject.lcshWildlife management -- Virginiaen
dc.titleAn assessment of the nutritional status and habitat quality of a southwestern Virginia deer herden
dc.type.dcmitypeTexten and Wildlife Sciencesen Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen


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