You are on page 1of 4

Steven Garcia 3/8/2017

Camera Trap Data Assignment:


Deer Activity and Habitat Selection
Introduction
Just like any other species deer allocate their time using variable habitats to satisfy their daily
requirements for food, rumination, movement, social interactions, and rest (Beier &
McCullough, 1990). These movements may also be effected due to the sex, age, time of season,
and weather patterns. Deer are known to have three separate movement periods. According to
Montgomery (1963) “feeding and movement from dawn until midmorning, bedding from
midmorning until midafternoon, with some individuals active for a short period in early
afternoon, and movement and feeding from midafternoon or late afternoon until dark or longer”.
Stockton’s campus has two types of drastically different habitats that are of interest in this study,
open fields and pinelands. In this study, we ask do Stockton deer prefer the forest or open fields
at different times of day? By using camera traps in several locations to count deer and their
respective locations and times of day we try to further understand white-tailed deer movements
and the factors that influence these movements.

Methods
Camera traps are increasingly being used as a survey tool by conservationists and wildlife
managers to investigate differences in abundance between broad habitat and land-use types of
species (Bowkett, Rovero, & Marshall, 2008). Specialized Reconyx wildlife cameras were
securely strapped to a tree trunk in areas that facilitated deer movement. They were programmed
to take a 3-photo burst whenever movement was detected within the camera’s sensor cone of
vision. These camera traps were set up at several different locations on the Stockton University
Campus. The total sites include police, dump, clear-cut, frog ponds, end trail, open field, farm,
south, burn, and lake. The open field, south, and end trail were selected for this study. These
three sites had different data dates, open field (5/15/2015-11/15/2015), end trail (5/15/2015-
11/15/2015), and south (5/15-6/15 and 10/15/2015-8/16/2016).
Initially, data from each set was assigned to different groups tasked to analyze and organize the
data set. Photos that included wildlife (including humans) were noted by typing in species, # of
bucks or doe’s, date, time, # of photos, and # of animals in the photos. Photosets without any
wildlife were noted as BLANK. Once data set was compiled, pivot tables were used to condense
the data in order to get a summary of the hours deer were spotted throughout the dates. This data
was then organized further to get occurrences in linear order for the sake of proper graph
visualization. Once data for all three sites was finished all data was combined into a bar graph to
visualize deer activity patterns. Human and coyote occurrence for each site was noted and was
combined into a bar graph to show any possible influence to deer activity.
Results
Compiled data was combined to form Figure 1. From the bar graph, we can see that there are
clear activity fluctuations for all three sites. Sites show a clear spike in deer activity in hours
around dusk and dawn with the highest spikes occurring at the open field site. The open field site
also shows the largest variations between activity in dusk/dawn compared to the rest of the hours
of this site. The other two “forest” sites show a higher consistency of activity beyond the hours
of dusk and dawn. The open field site had the most total occurrences recorded at 540 deer, end
trail followed with 500, and south came in last with 291. Figure 2 shows coyote and human
sighting for each site. Coyote sightings for this season only occurred on South site with one a
single sighting. Human occurrence occurred at all sights with 31 at the open field, 27 at south,
and 18 at end trail.
Figure 1.

Figure 1: This bar graph shows all of the deer occurrences for each hour for three different sites. The sites include South, Open
Field, and End Trail. Each sight is exhibiting different activity patterns with open field showing the strongest fluctuation at dusk/
dawn and “forest” sites showing a more consistent pattern throughout.
Figure 2.

Figure 2: Bar graph showing the possible influences of humans and coyotes on deer occurrence. Sites include end trail, open
field, and south. The south site was the only site exhibiting coyote occurrence throughout the season. Open field showed the
most human occurrence with 31 followed by south with 27 and end trail with 18.

Discussion
Results showed clear patterns between the activity of the deer throughout the day as well as
habitat selection. The open field exhibited the highest activity spikes in the hours around dusk
and dawn. The open field also showed the highest activity patterns just after midnight. The other
sites exhibited similar spikes around this time but not to the degree of the open field. The
forested sites had a more consistent activity pattern throughout the day. This suggest deer prefer
to only visit the open field around the times of dusk, dawn, and a couple hours after midnight.
There are studies backing this type of behavior up. In particular, a study done by Beier and
McCullough (1990) deer use close vegetation types such as forest during daytime and open
clearing during dusk, dawn, and nighttime. A similar result was found by Montgomery (1963)
were he discussed that deer spent the days in the wooded areas and moved into open field 1 or
more hours before in winter and during the hour of sunset in the winter. The forest selection can
be seen in Figure 1 as the forested areas have a consistent occurrence throughout the day when
compared to the open field.
This crepuscular nature of the deer and their habitat selection can be logically explained through
several factors. During the day forest provide more cover for deer to bed and hide from potential
predators. During the transitional periods of dusk and dawn most potential predators would no
longer be on the hunt. Which can explain why deer choose to stay on the open field. These times
also provide less light making the open field slightly safer than daytime. The open field provides
deer with open space to socialize, run freely, and take advantage of fast growing successional
plant species. These behaviors were seen in the photographs where deer showcased themselves
grazing in large groups of 7+ deer. Numbers that were not seen in any other sites. Doe’s also ran
around in joy showing how much deer love open spaces. All these factors back up the reason
why the Open field had the highest deer occurrence out of all the sites even though numbers
were not very high in hours other than dusk/dawn.
Human and coyote occurrence did not seem to affect deer numbers, as the highest occurrence of
human occurred in the open field and the only occurrence of coyote occurring at the south site.
Deer may be used to human activity and may not consider humans as capable predators.
Coyote’s do not occur consistently enough in South Jersey to have deep impacts on deer
occurrence.
There are a few things to note about this study which may have affected the results. First of all,
data sets of the three sites did not match up with some sites going into different seasons. This
may effect occurrence numbers since deer activity patterns do change throughout the year.
Secondly, the open field is one of the more isolated sites on campus which could have been an
influence to occurrence rates. Lastly, the data sets did not span a large amount of time which can
give un accurate results of deer activity. Overall, the data clearly answered the question of deer
activity and habitat selection with deer moving around at dusk and dawn and picking forested
areas during the day while selecting the open field at dusk/dawn.

References
Beier, P., & McCullough, D. R. (1990). Factors influencing white-tailed deer activity
patterns and habitat use. Wildlife Monographs, 3-51.
Bowkett, A. E., Rovero, F., & Marshall, A. R. (2008). The use of camera‐trap data to
model habitat use by antelope species in the Udzungwa Mountain forests, Tanzania. African
Journal of Ecology, 46(4), 479-487.
Montgomery, G. G. (1963). Nocturnal movements and activity rhythms of white-tailed
deer. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 422-427.