Annual survival and site fidelity of free-ranging white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus): comparative demography before (1983-1992) and after (1993-2005) spatial confinement. Academic Article uri icon


  • Survival and movement are important demographic variables influencing the dynamics of large herbivores with implications for management and evolution of life-history strategies. Management practices such as spatial confinement and harvest regulation attempt to control survival and movement for the sustainability of harvested deer populations, but a paucity of long-term data exists on these management practices. We examined annual survival and site fidelity of free-ranging white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) over 10 years (1983-1992) to compare demographic parameters after spatial confinement (1993-2005). We used capture records (n = 174; 104 females, 70 males), marked deer recaptures (n = 42), and dead recoveries (n = 68) to estimate sex-specific, age-specific and time-specific parameters. We found that annual female survival was 50% from 1983-1987 during a period of intense harvest, but increased to 93.7% after intense harvesting was eliminated. Prior to spatial confinement, annual survival of marked male deer averaged 36.7%-42.5%. After spatial confinement, annual survival increased on average for males (58%-99%) and females (77%-98%). Females showed high levels of site fidelity (>99%) prior to spatial confinement, whereas males showed much less site fidelity (4.5% for the 2 top-ranking models). During spatial confinement, the semi-impermeable fence effectively increased site fidelity of males (56%). These results stem from long-term study (23 years) of a large herbivore experiencing changes to life-history, resulting from changes in management that were applied to the population and aimed at altering population demographics, for sustainability of a harvestable population of deer.

published proceedings

  • Integr Zool

author list (cited authors)

  • Webb, S. L., & Gee, K. L.

citation count

  • 6

publication date

  • January 2014