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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Influence of Visual Input on Behavior of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) to an Auditory Alert Recording

  • Author(s): Gallagher, George R.
  • Holloway, Catherine H.
  • Williams, Kelly L.
  • Ellenburg, Robyn Y.
  • Saylors, Brianna M.
  • Van Der Heiden, Lara
  • Peters, Sunday O.
  • et al.

The objective of this study was to determine the importance of visual verification in the behavioral response of white-tailed deer to an auditory alert recording. We utilized a portable, remote-controlled sound system to play recordings of the white-tailed deer alert “blow.” In Phase I, the sound treatment was administered from a single location in a 1.3-ha grass lawn surrounded by wooded areas and roads with limited visibility, to free-ranging white-tailed deer on the Berry College campus during day and night hours. In Phase II, sound treatments were administered from varying locations in open lawn and hay fields. Recordings of deer activity were obtained from a digital camcorder and a FLIR thermal imagery camera. Behavior of white-tailed deer in response to the audio recording was classified as Passive (no altered behavior), Alert (actively observing and/or listening toward the recorded sound), Active (slow to moderate intentional movement toward or away from the recorded sound), or Flight (running away from the recorded sound). Six 10-sec periods of activity were evaluated. The pretreatment period (Pre Treat) began one minute prior to activation of the alert sound. The next four time periods [Sound (T1-T3)] represent the four consecutive 10-sec time frames from initiation of the sound treatment. A post-treatment (Post Trt) period was approximately 60 sec following the T3 period. In both phases, deer exhibited decreased Passive Behavior and increased Alert Behavior and Active Behavior following administration of the sound treatment. In the more confined area (Phase I) at night, deer tended to exhibit Alert and Active Behaviors longer than during the day. In the more open areas (Phase II), the degree of Active Behavior was diminished, with deer in the day tending to seek out the location of the sound. The results indicate that the use of visual verification to the auditory alert influenced behavioral response of white-tailed deer, and may be more critical in the areas where that process is limited compared to more open landscapes.

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