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Chinese Privet and the Feeding Ecology of White-Tailed Deer: The Role of an Exotic Plant

Karl A. K. Stromayer, Robert J. Warren, A. Sydney Johnson, Philip E. Hale, Carolyn L. Rogers and Christopher L. Tucker
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 62, No. 4 (Oct., 1998), pp. 1321-1329
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3801997
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3801997
Page Count: 9
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Chinese Privet and the Feeding Ecology of White-Tailed Deer: The Role of an Exotic Plant
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Abstract

Exotic plants and overabundant wildlife are apparent indicators of disturbed habitats, yet few studies have investigated their interactions. Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) is an abundant, exotic shrub in the southeastern United States, yet little is known about its forage value to white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). We quantified the seasonal importance of privet browse and fruit in the food habits of deer at Chickamauga Battlefield Park (CBP) in Georgia, and we determined seasonal cycles in crude protein (CP) content from privet browse. Analyses of rumen samples from 146 deer collected during 32 consecutive months (1992-94) revealed total privet (browse and fruit) averaged 11.1% of rumen volume during fall and 13.3% during winter. Fall consumption of privet browse increased almost 2 times, and privet fruit consumption >20 times in a fall of low acorn consumption. Winter browse surveys conducted in February for 2 years revealed privet browse composed >50% of available browse and >75% of browse used. Privet browse maintained a CP content >12% in all months. These results suggest privet is an important component of the fall and winter diets of CBP deer and may serve as a nutritional buffer during years of acorn scarcity. The value of privet as a deer forage must be weighed against the threat it poses to biodiversity conservation.

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