Habitat selection and movement patterns of cattle and white-tailed deer in a temperate savanna
Depew, Jarrod Jason
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This study investigated the use of high resolution satellite imagery in research involving habitat selection, and movement patterns of white-tailed deer and cattle in a semi-arid landscape. Vegetation classification was developed based on Ikonos satellite imagery that was then used to define habitat selection and characterize movement paths of deer and cattle to allow a better understanding of these 2 species. Pasture attributes were also measured to determine animal distribution throughout the study area in relation to roads, fences, water location, and supplemental feeders. Three cattle and 3 free ranging white-tailed deer were used during 3 trials to test seasonal differences in habitat selection and spatial distribution across the pasture. Ikonos satellite imagery was classified to a final classification accuracy of 83.6%. Seven vegetation classes were defined in the classification with 1 class of bare ground/ herbaceous that represents interspaces between shrub vegetation. Classification accuracy was obtained using a ?? meter buffer to all ground control points increasing the accuracy from 71.29%. All physical pasture attributes were significant to animal distributions in the study area when compared to the random distribution. Roads and water location were most important to cattle during the spring and summer. White tailed deer use of the pasture was more dependent on vegetation characteristics than physical attributes. Both cattle and deer selected habitat patches with a proportionately large percentage of bare-ground/interspaces (>40%). Deer were predominately found in areas containing higher percentages of shrub species, while cattle were found in areas containing a mixture of larger tree species in addition to shrub complexes. Travel velocity and path tortuosity were measured to determine effects of vegetation attributes on animal movements. Both cattle and deer followed fairly linear paths (Fractal Dimension<1.2). Factors contributing to path tortuosity included mean patch size, number patches, and patch fractal dimension. Travel velocity was also measured and compared to vegetation association attributes. Travel velocity was significantly different between seasons for white-tailed deer however cattle and deer comparisons were not significant across the 3 trials. Number of patches, patch fractal dimension, mean patch size, and patch area were significant in the travel velocity model.