Winter Track Surveys Indicate Zones of Potential Conflict With White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in an Urban Landscape

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Pevzner, Sophia
Animal Sciences
thesis / dissertation description
Suburbanization typically leads to a loss of forested land and may increase the suitability of other naturally vegetated landscapes for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). These areas often include residential properties and dedicated green spaces, which bring deer in close proximity to people and result in conflict issues, including human health and safety and personal property damage. A detailed understanding of distribution and abundance is key to resolving potential conflicts with urban deer. Conventional methods for counting deer involve low altitude aerial surveys; however these can be intrusive in heavily populated areas and are expensive to conduct. I designed a deer track survey conducted along transects for a 36 km2, mixed-use urban area in Syracuse, NY. Deer distribution was well-characterized from track counts, but abundance was estimated imprecisely in some locations. I used proximity of track crossings to escape cover to generate a zone map of potential conflicts with deer. I also modified a popular formula for converting track counts to animal density, which compared favorably to an independent estimate of deer density for one location. I recommend winter track surveys in urban areas as an inexpensive alternative to conventional methods of deer abundance estimation, and expect other urban communities dealing with similar deer conflicts will find my approach to abundance estimation relevant and applicable.