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The Influence of Temporal and Spatial Factors on Clearcut Use by White-Tailed Deer in Northern Idaho

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Relatively little is known about the response of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) to forest management practices currently used in northern Idaho. We used pellet group surveys and radiotelemetry to assess the influence of season, clearcut age, and clearcut size on deer use in the Priest Lake watershed of northern Idaho. Deer use of 14 clearcuts ranging from 1 to 25 yr in age and 4.05 to 14.75 ha in size was investigated. No association between pellet group density and clearcut size or age was found. Both pellet group and telemetry data, however, indicated seasonal shifts in white-tailed deer habitat use patterns. Deer displayed strong avoidance of nonforested sites during winter and concentrated on low elevation winter ranges characterized by dense overstories. With the advent of warm weather and reduced snow depths, nonforested sites received increasing use. Clearcut use peaked during early spring and declined with the onset of summer as deer migrated to higher elevations. Spring use of clearcuts was significantly higher than summer use on all sites sampled. Spring pellet group densities averaged 1.52 groups/plot, whereas summer densities averaged 0.50 groups/plot. In the Priest Lake drainage, cutting units should be restricted to less critical sites adjacent to wintering areas. Clearcuts within winter habitats will further fragment existing forested stands and will be at the expense of critical thermal cover. In other regions, vegetation structure and composition should not be the only criteria used to evaluate the influence of clearcutting on white-tailed deer habitat use. West. J. Appl. For. 14(4):177-182.
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Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: School of Forestry, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812

Publication date: 01 October 1999

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