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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #384271

Research Project: Ticks and Human Health

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

Title: Patterns of white-tailed deer movements in suburban Maryland: implications for zoonotic disease mitigation

item RODEN-REYNOLDS, PATRICK - University Of Maryland
item KENT, CODY M. - University Of Maryland
item Li, Andrew
item MULINAX, JENNIFER M. - University Of Maryland

Submitted to: Urban Ecosystems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/20/2022
Publication Date: 9/17/2022
Citation: Roden-Reynolds, P., Kent, C., Li, A.Y., Mulinax, J. 2022. Patterns of white-tailed deer movements in suburban Maryland: implications for zoonotic disease mitigation. Insects.

Interpretive Summary: White-tailed deer are a keystone host of the vector tick species, particularly the blacklegged tick and lone star tick, that are responsible for the transmission of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease. High deer densities have led to issues in suburban areas, including increased risk of deer-vehicle collisions, over browsing of natural and ornamental vegetation, as well as increasing concerns over vector-borne zoonotic diseases. This is a lack of quantitative, fine-scale information on deer usage of suburban yards and neighborhoods that may help improve deer population and zoonotic disease management. The USDA ARS scientists led a research team including university researchers to investigate activities of white-tailed deer in suburban landscape as part of an Integrated Tick Management research project. Deer movement in natural habitats and residential neighborhoods were collected using GPS collars on animals. The core home ranges, diurnal, as well as seasonal activity patterns of both male and female deer were characterized. Periods of year during which increased risk of deer transporting ticks to residential areas were identified. Results obtained from this study are of interest to deer ecologists, wildlife biologists, tick-borne disease epidemiologists, and researchers who work in the fields of tick-host interaction and integrated tick management.

Technical Abstract: Past research has highlighted important findings of deer in suburban areas such as small home ranges, high site fidelity, or use of residential areas when compared to rural counterparts, but these studies often lack rigorous quantification of movement and activity data. Yet, understanding the ecology of the often highly dense white-tailed deer populations in urban and suburban landscapes is important for mitigating a variety of conflicts that arise with dense human populations. We collared white-tailed deer in Howard County, Maryland. High-resolution GPS data enabled us to create autocorrelated kernel density home ranges and model deer speed, rates of activity, and proximity to residential buildings over time. Home ranges encompassed approximately 35% residential land and an average of 71.3 and 129 residential properties were found within female and male core ranges, respectively. Sex, time of day, and day of the year all influenced deer speed, activity, and proximity to residences. Deer moved into residential areas nightly, especially in winter, and exhibited bouts of increased speed and activity shortly after sunrise and sunset, though with distinctive seasonal changes. We discuss how variation in home ranges and movement influence population management success based on periods of increased diurnal activity and explore year-round periods of increased risk of deer transporting ticks to residential areas. These findings focus our broad understanding of deer movements in suburban landscapes to improve population management, limit human wildlife conflict, and manage against the spread of ticks and tick-borne disease in residential areas.