The Gas Molecule Theory: Dispersal and Management of White-Tailed Deer
While the notion is pervasive, that vertebrate populations behave like systems of gas molecules, we contend it is an inaccurate metaphor for how deer populations expand. The mechanism by which white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations spread to fill available habitat is hypothesized to be rapid, density-related dispersal. We have tested this hypothesis using data from seven radiotelemetry studies. No trend is evident between the proportion of marked individuals dispersing and population density in populations ranging from 1/km2 to 70/km2; the probability of a female dispersing is 2% to 5% Data from our own studies in the central Adirondack Mountains of New York, involving > 200 marked females, suggest an alternative metaphor. Analyses show that a population expands slowly as a series overlapping home ranges because female offspring remain near their dams for life.