Landscape Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 10, pp 1405–1420 | Cite as

Regional assessment on influence of landscape configuration and connectivity on range size of white-tailed deer

  • W. David WalterEmail author
  • Kurt C. VerCauteren
  • Henry CampaIII
  • William R. Clark
  • Justin W. Fischer
  • Scott E. Hygnstrom
  • Nancy E. Mathews
  • Clayton K. Nielsen
  • Eric M. Schauber
  • Timothy R. Van Deelen
  • Scott R. Winterstein
Research Article


Variation in the size of home range of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) has broad implications for managing populations, agricultural damage, and disease spread and transmission. Size of home range of deer also varies seasonally because plant phenology dictates the vegetation types that are used as foraging or resting sites. Knowledge of the landscape configuration and connectivity that contributes to variation in size of home range of deer for the region is needed to fully understand differences and similarities of deer ecology throughout the Midwest. We developed a research team from four Midwestern states to investigate how size of home range of deer in agro-forested landscapes is influenced by variations in landscape characteristics that provide essential habitat components. We found that for resident female deer, annual size of home range in Illinois (mean = 0.99 km2), Michigan (mean = 1.34 km2), Nebraska (mean = 1.20 km2), and Wisconsin (mean = 1.47 km2) did not differ across the region (F 3,175 = 0.42, P = 0.737), but differences between agricultural growing and nongrowing periods were apparent. Variables influencing size of home range included: distance to forests, roads, and urban development from the centroid of deer home range, and percent of crop as well as four landscape pattern indices (contrast-weighted edge density, mean nearest neighbor, area-weighted mean shape index, and patch size coefficient of variation). We also identified differences in model selection for four landscapes created hierarchically to reflect levels of landscape connectivity determined from perceived ability of deer to traverse the landscape. Connectivity of selected forested regions within agro-forested ecosystems across the Midwest plays a greater role in understanding the size of home ranges than traditional definitions of deer habitat conditions and landscape configuration.


Anthropogenic Connectivity Home range Landscape pattern indices Odocoileus virginianus White-tailed deer 



Funds were provided by the State Agricultural Experiment Station (SAES) in partnership with the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) under the US Department of Agriculture and the National Wildlife Research Center of the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services. Funding and logistical support for Illinois was provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources through the Federal Aid Project W-87-R, and Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, Department of Zoology, and Graduate School at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Several people assisted with field work in Illinois, especially C. Bloomquist, M. Bloomquist, A. Nollman, P. McDonald, J. Rohm, and D. Storm. Funds for field work in Michigan were provided by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources-Wildlife Division through the Federal Aid in Restoration Act under Pittman-Robertson Project W-147-R, Michigan State University, Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, Safari Club International, and Whitetails Unlimited. Several people contributed to the project and assisted with Michigan field work, especially T. Hiller with assistance from A. Leach, E. Arrow, R. Havens, B. Dodge, L. McNew, D. Haan, M. Rubley, B. Rudolph, S. Dubay, S. Hanna, F. Davis, and V. Tisch. Funds for field work in Nebraska were provided by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Desoto National Wildlife Refuge, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Safari Club International, Nebraska Bowhunters Association, Professional Bowhunters Association, Cabela’s Incorporated, Berryman Institute for Wildlife Damage Management, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We thank G. Gage, L. Klimek, M. Buske, B. Barry, and M. Sheets for providing study sites, equipment, assistance, maintenance, and lodging and G. Clements, M. Clements, S. Korte, and J. Gilsdorf for assistance with data collection in Nebraska. Funds for field work in Wisconsin were provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Cattleman’s Association, Whitetails Unlimited Association, Northcentral Agricultural Experiment Station, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Department of Wildlife Ecology, Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School. Many people assisted with Wisconsin field work and analysis, especially: A. M. Oyer, L. H. Skuldt, J. C. Chamberlin, V. Green, W. Delanis, R. A. McLean, D. Grove, and S. B. Magle. We thank D. Theobald at Colorado State University for creating and providing the urban density GIS data layer used in this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© United States Department of Agriculture/Animal Plant Health Inspection Service/Wildlife Services 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. David Walter
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kurt C. VerCauteren
    • 3
  • Henry CampaIII
    • 4
  • William R. Clark
    • 5
  • Justin W. Fischer
    • 3
  • Scott E. Hygnstrom
    • 6
  • Nancy E. Mathews
    • 7
  • Clayton K. Nielsen
    • 8
  • Eric M. Schauber
    • 8
  • Timothy R. Van Deelen
    • 9
  • Scott R. Winterstein
    • 4
  1. 1.Colorado Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection ServicesNational Wildlife Research CenterFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, Wildlife ServicesNational Wildlife Research CenterFort CollinsUSA
  4. 4.Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station and Department of Fisheries and WildlifeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  5. 5.Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal BiologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  6. 6.School of Natural ResourcesUniversity of NebraskaLincolnUSA
  7. 7.Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental StudiesUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  8. 8.Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory and Department of ZoologySouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA
  9. 9.Department of Forest and Wildlife EcologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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