Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are an iconic species of wildlife, and populations of mule deer across much of the western U.S. have experienced recent fluctuations in size. Factors that affect the survival and subsequent recruitment of juveniles may be the preeminent cause of population fluctuations for mule deer in many areas. Many factors, including habitat loss, extreme weather, intense predation, timing and synchrony of parturition, and competition with other species may be influencing these changes. We studied two potential factors that can influence the survival of neonate mule deer in southern Utah. To better understand how predation affects mule deer, we first implemented a study of the response of mule deer to removal of coyotes in southern Utah. We monitored survival and cause-specific mortality of neonate mule deer in areas where coyotes were removed and where they were not removed. We used multi-model inference within Program MARK and a known-fate model to estimate survival of neonate mule deer in both treatments (removal and non-removal), and to investigate factors potentially influencing survival. Our results indicated that coyote control can decrease mortality and increase survival of neonate mule deer in some situations. Removal of coyotes was most effective when removal efforts occurred for multiple consecutive years, and when control efforts occurred in or near fawning habitat. Second, we examined how synchrony of parturition affects the survival and cause-specific mortality of neonate mule deer. Reproductive synchrony is a strategy that influences the survival of juveniles and the growth of populations. Our objective was to test three possible explanations for the synchrony of parturition in mule deer; 1) pressure of predation on newborns, 2) a hybrid of predation and environmental effects, and 3) weather and food availability. To determine the effects of the timing of parturition on the survival and predator-related mortality of neonate mule deer, we used multi-model inference within Program MARK and a known-fate model. Our results indicated that the timing of parturition influenced survival and predator-related mortality of neonate mule deer. There was a lag between the onset of parturition of mule deer and predation of mule deer by fawns; individuals born close to the onset of parturition had higher survival and lower predator-related mortality than those whose births were delayed relative to the onset of parturition. Since predators selected for neonate mule deer that were born late, predator learning may partially explain reproductive synchrony in mule deer. Environmental factors may have a greater effect than predation on the survival of early-born individuals.
College and Department
Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Hall, Jacob Tyler, "Survival of Neonate Mule Deer Fawns in Southern Utah: Effects of Coyote Removal and Synchrony of Parturition" (2018). All Theses and Dissertations. 6745.
Odocoileus hemionus, mule deer, fawn, neonate, coyote, predator, predator control, Monroe Mountain, parturition, synchrony, birth timing, predator swamping, predator learning