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Deer and Browsing in Pilot Mountain: An Evaluation of Population Survey Methods and Browsing Pressure in a North Carolina State Park

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abstract
Eastern hardwood forests are becoming increasingly homogenous largely due to the persistent browse effects of white-tailed deer. Deer browse selectively and place heavy herbivory pressure on understory vegetation communities when populations are high. In order to adequately control deer populations, however, managers must first be able to accurately and reliably estimate populations. Even the best-informed management actions may fail to mitigate community effects of browsing in areas throughout the eastern United States due to potential browse legacy effects. The broader objectives of this thesis were to develop a validation technique for free-ranging populations of deer, compare different methods of quantifying deer populations using remote photography surveys, and explore potential legacy effects of chronic herbivory using large herbivore exclosures. Using drones equipped with thermal imagers, we were able to quantify captive populations up to 97% accurately, allowing us to effectively validate other methods. All of the remote photography survey methods investigated generated statistically indistinguishable results with our drone validations, giving us confidence in all methods. Lastly, we saw no significant vegetative regeneration in our exclosures, indicating that historic browse pressure in our study area likely is exhibiting legacy effects on its vegetation community.
subject
Camera trapping
Mark-resight
N-mixture modelling
Population surveys
Unmanned aerial systems
White-tailed deer
contributor
Baldwin, Robert Wood (author)
Anderson, T. Michael (committee chair)
Erhardt, Robert (committee member)
date
2019-05-24T08:35:42Z (accessioned)
2019-11-23T09:30:26Z (available)
2019 (issued)
degree
Biology (discipline)
embargo
2019-11-23 (terms)
identifier
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/93943 (uri)
language
en (iso)
publisher
Wake Forest University
title
Deer and Browsing in Pilot Mountain: An Evaluation of Population Survey Methods and Browsing Pressure in a North Carolina State Park
type
Thesis

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