Year of Publication

2019

Degree Name

Master of Science in Forest and Natural Resource Sciences (MSFNRS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Agriculture

Department

Forestry and Natural Resources

First Advisor

Dr. Matthew T. Springer

Second Advisor

Dr. John J. Cox

Abstract

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) commonly consume row crops, with yield losses often attributed to their browsing. Deer density and field morphology may predict yield losses within local areas. We sought to 1) determine the effects of deer browsing on corn and soybean yields and investigate if deer density or field morphology correlated to yield loss in western Kentucky, and 2) compare pellet-based distance sampling to game camera surveys to determine if a distance sampling technique could accurately estimate deer density during the growing season. Overall, deer reduced corn and soybean yields on one-half of surveyed properties. Deer density did not influence yield losses in either crop; however, field morphology correlated with soybean yield losses. Pellet-based distance sampling provided statistically similar estimates as our game camera survey technique; however, at the individual farm level distance sampling estimates proved unreliable. Inaccurate model parameter (i.e., defecation rates) and inability to detect pellet groups in dense vegetation complicated the reliability of distance sampling models. Overall, yield losses from deer occur in western Kentucky and may be a localized event. Finally, game camera surveys should be used over pellet-based distance sampling during the growing season until detection issues and inaccurate model parameters are solved.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2019.244

Funding Information

Funding was provided by the Kentucky Soybean Board and National Corn Growers Association.

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