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Live-Capture and Small-Scale Relocation of Urban Deer on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Jennifer A. Cromwell, Robert J. Warren and David W. Henderson
Wildlife Society Bulletin (1973-2006)
Vol. 27, No. 4 (Winter, 1999), pp. 1025-1031
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3783662
Page Count: 7
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Live-Capture and Small-Scale Relocation of Urban Deer on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
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Abstract

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) have become overabundant in many urban and suburban areas. Residents in these areas often are opposed to using lethal methods to control deer populations and insist that live-capture and relocation of deer is a viable and humane method of control. Therefore, we conducted a controlled experiment in the Sea Pines residential area on Hilton Head Island (HHI), South Carolina. Nineteen deer were captured with rocket nets, chemically immobilized, and marked with radiotransmitter collars. Of these, 10 deer were relocated to a forest preserve on the island and 9 were released at their capture site as controls. We monitored deer movements over 24-hour periods at 1 day, 3 days, 5 weeks, and 10 weeks post-capture and compared movement rates and post-release dispersal for relocated versus control deer. Mean movement rates (m/hr) did not differ between relocated and control deer, or among days post-release. Five of the 10 relocated deer (50%) dispersed from their release site, compared to none of the controls. We analyzed post-release mortality over 3-month and 1-year intervals. Relocated deer experienced greater mortality from capture-related causes during the 3-month, post-release interval than did control deer (P<0.005, t=31.8, df=17). However, relocated deer experienced less mortality from noncapture-related causes during the 1-year, post-release interval than did control deer (P<0.005, t=49.6, df=14). We concluded that live-capture and relocation, even over short distances, was not viable because most deer did not remain in their relocated area and they suffered greater rates of capture-related mortality shortly after relocation than deer that were not relocated.

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