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Inferring white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population dynamics from wildlife collisions in the City of Ottawa

  • Author(s): Widenmaier, Kerri
  • Fahrig, Lenore
  • et al.
Abstract

Concerns associated with growing white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) numbers in Ottawa, Ontario have motivated several studies related to the distribution and ecology of deer in the Ottawa-Carleton region. This project infers deer-population trends from deer-vehicle collisions in Ottawa, Ontario, and considers the influence of traffic volume on estimates of population dynamics from deer-vehicle collision data. Traffic volume and collision data for various road segments across suburban Ottawa were analyzed to answer questions related to the characteristics and spatial distribution of deer collisions and traffic volume in the city. Deer-vehicle collisions are increasing at a faster rate than traffic volume, suggesting that the deer population is increasing. The distribution of collisions supports the boundaries previously suggested for the location of one deerherd summer range, but not the other. Deer-collision numbers east and west of the Rideau River, a likely barrier to deer movement, were very similar, even though research and concern related to deer numbers has been concentrated west of the Rideau. More collisions occurred on 400-series highways than on other roads, suggesting that highways are a higher risk for deer collisions than other roads. The number of deer-vehicle collisions is much higher on recently constructed 400-series highways than on older 400-series highways, indicating that new highways represent high-risk areas for collisions. This research suggests that deer-vehicle collisions could be a very useful data source for inferring deer population dynamics of suburban deer, but it is imperative that significant factors affecting the number and distribution of collisions, such as category of road and traffic volume, are considered during any analyses.

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