Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) populations are influenced by multiple factors, including interspecific competition and predation. Interspecific competition can affect resource acquisition and survival through altering space use and access to preferred habitat. Mule deer in some areas alter space use in the presence of competing species, including bison (Bison bison), cattle (Box taurus), elk (Cervus canadensis), and feral horses (Equus caballus), however the influence of competition on survival of mule deer during specific life history stages, such as birthing and rearing of neonates, is largely unknown. In addition to competition, predation can influence mule deer populations and even limit population growth by reducing recruitment of neonates into the adult population. The effects of predation may increase within a complex predator community, as predator species differ in hunting strategies, which may influence timing of predation events. We investigated the effects of interspecific competition on space use by mule deer during birthing and rearing of young (Chapter 1) and analyzed temporal patterns of predator kills of neonate mule deer in a complex predator community (Chapter 2). We hypothesized that mule deer would avoid competing ungulate species during birth and rearing of young, and that survival of neonate mule deer would decrease in areas of with increased likelihood of competition. We also hypothesized that timing of kills and habitat characteristics of kill sites would differ by predator species due to different hunting strategies. We captured 98 neonate mule deer and fit them with mortality-sensing radiocollars to test our hypotheses. We did not observe any evidence of competitive interactions between mule deer and other ungulate species. Further, we observed a positive association between space use by mule deer and elk following parturition. We also observed an increase in probability of survival for neonate mule deer in areas with higher probability of use by elk (Hazard ratio= 0.185, SE=0.497). We observed differences in timing of kills among predator species (p=0.026), however habitat characteristics of kill sites did not differ for those species. It appears that resource availability and climatic conditions influence space use by mule deer more strongly than space use by competing species. Further, timing of kills of neonate mule deer differ by predator species, which may lead to an additive effect of predation within a complex predator community.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





mule deer, neonate, survival, interspecific competition, predation



Included in

Life Sciences Commons