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Linking Resource Selection to Population Dynamics of Mule Deer in Idaho

Project Objectives

Student moving fawnThe broad goal of the project is to answer the question of “how does forage quality, predation risk and weather interact to determine habitat quality and subsequently how is habitat quality modified by mule deer behavior and local density to influence vital rates and population size? We will answer this question by investigating the interactive influence of weather patterns, resource selection, and predation risk on mule deer survival and population growth rate. Measures of population growth and fecundity will be integrated with fine-scale resource selection and predator-caused mortality to estimate population dynamics and rank habitat components vegetation type and quality, weather, density and predation) by their importance to population growth rate. These models will then enable wildlife managers to combine population data collected within climate and broad vegetation biomes with fine-scale habitat models to predict the potential mule deer population productivity in different habitats, weather patterns, and management regimes.


This project will capitalize on mule deer research conducted by the IDFG research biologist and project staff in 52 fawn survival study sites and 8 permanent study sites across Idaho. From 1998 to date, >3,000 mule deer fawns and > 1500 adult females have been radiocollared with VHF transmitters to monitor survival. Another 79 adult females were collared with GPS transmitters from 2003 to 2011 to estimate resource selection. I have compiled spatial data layers need to complete preliminary resource models.

This year I have developed a research proposal to be defended in October. I have completed resource selection models for summer range in eastern Idaho using GPS locations and winter range for all of Idaho from aerial survey locations. These preliminary models will be used to evaluate data needs for the linked habitat-survival models required to answer research questions. I have estimated survival by population management units and compiled data files and weather variables to begin Proportional Hazards modeling of survival and cause specific mortality. We have collect preliminary vegetation and food habits data for mule deer living in 3 primary ecotypes in southern Idaho. This year I will deploy 200 VHF radio collars on 6-month-old fawns and 30 GPS collars on adult females.



Lead Researchers:

Mark Hurley, PhD Student and IDFG Mule Deer Research Biologist


Pete Zager, Jean-Michel Gaillard


Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Project Duration: 2009-2013

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