Changes in the abundance and distribution of free (drinking) water can influence wildlife in arid regions. In the western USA, free water is considered by wildlife managers to be important for bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), elk (Cervus elaphus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and pronghorn (Antilocapra americana). Nonetheless, we lack information on the influence of habitat and landscape features surrounding water sources, including wildlife water developments, and how these features may influence use of water by sexes differently. Consequently, a better understanding of differential use of water by the sexes could influence the conservation and management of those ungulates and water resources in their habitats. We deployed remote cameras at water sources to document water source use. For mule deer specifically, we monitored all known water sources on one mountain range in western Utah, during summer from 2007 to 2011 to document frequency and timing of water use, number of water sources used by males and females, and to estimate population size from individually identified mule deer. Male and female mule deer used different water sources but visited that resource at similar frequencies. On average, mule deer used 1.4 water sources and changed water sources once per summer. Additionally, most wildlife water developments were used by both sexes. We also randomly sampled 231 water sources with remote cameras in a clustered-sampling design throughout Utah in 2006 and from 2009 to 2011. In association with camera sampling at water sources, we measured several site and landscape scale features around each water source to identify patterns in ungulate use informative for managers. We used model selection to identify features surrounding water sources that were related to visitation rates for male and female bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, and pronghorn. Top models for each species were different, but supported models for males and females of the same species generally included similar covariates, although with varying strengths. Our results highlight the differing use of water sources by the sexes. This information will help guide managers when siting and reprovisioning wildlife water developments meant to benefit those species, and when prioritizing natural water sources for preservation or enhancement.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



Date Submitted


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guzzler, mark-resight, Poisson-log, wildlife water development, remote camera, zero-inflated, negative binomial, Ovis canadensis, Cervus elaphus, Odocoileus hemionus, and Antilocapra americana