Effects of translocation and deer-vehicle collision mitigation on Florida Key deer



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Urban development and habitat fragmentation threaten recovery and management of the endangered Florida Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium). Urban development has reduced deer dispersal from their core habitat resulting in deer ?overabundance? and has increased deer-human interactions (mostly deer-vehicle collisions [DVCs]). Conversely, deer populations on outer islands have declined in recent years due to limited deer dispersal from source populations. In order to expand the Key deer?s range and reduce DVCs within their core habitat, wildlife managers determined translocations and DVC mitigation were needed. Thus, the objectives of my thesis were to determine (1) effects of translocation on the establishment of outer-island local populations, and (2) effects of United States 1 Highway (US 1) improvements (i.e., exclusion fencing, underpasses, deer guards, and extra lane creation) on DVCs and deer movements. I evaluated the efficacy of translocations by comparing annual survival and seasonal ranges between resident and translocated deer and by analyzing reproduction of translocated deer. Translocated females (yearlings and adults) had lower annual survival than resident deer. Conversely, males (yearlings and adults) demonstrated higher annual survival than resident males. Due to low sample sizes and large variation, these numbers are potentially less important than the high overall survival (only 4 of 38 died). Seasonal ranges were generally smaller for resident deer than translocated deer. I attribute differences in ranges to differences in habitat quality between the core habitat and destination islands and to use of soft releases. Presence of fawns and yearlings indicated successful reproduction of translocated deer. Overall, the project was successful in establishing populations on the destination islands. The US 1 Highway improvements reduced DVCs along the fenced section of US 1 (2003, n = 2; 2004, n = 1; 2005, n = 0); however, overall DVCs increased on Big Pine Key (1996?2000, x? = 79; 2003, n = 91; 2004, n = 84; 2005, n = 100). Data suggest DVCs shifted to the unfenced segment of US 1. However, monthly deer surveys also suggested an increase in deer numbers that may explain overall DVC increases observed in my study.