Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Habitat Use of Female Columbian Black-tailed Deer in Western Oregon

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  • Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) are important economically, ecologically, and culturally as an indigenous species in western Oregon. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) observed declines in black-tailed deer populations since the late 1980’s and attributes these declines to reduction in quality and availability of habitat, following the decline of timber harvest on federal lands. Additionally, black-tailed deer pose a perceived economic impact on private industrial forests by browsing seedlings during stand establishment. In western Oregon, where wildlife habitat management is tied to forest management, effective management for black-tailed deer would be facilitated by investigating home range sizes and habitat use in forested landscapes. To understand habitat preferences and use by female black-tailed deer in western Oregon, I quantified their seasonal and annual habitat use in the Indigo and Alsea Wildlife Management Units (WMU). I conducted home range analysis for 32 individuals in the Alsea and 30 individuals in the Indigo WMU using compositional analysis to investigate second-(home range establishment) and third- (within home range) order habitat use in proportion to availability at annual and seasonal intervals. Mean annual home range sizes for female black-tailed deer in the Alsea and Indigo WMU was 64.26 ha (SD = 22.65) and 262.45 ha (SD = 419.50), respectively. Home range sizes increased with decreasing area of early seral (forest age 0-10 years) and mid-seral (forest age 11-20 years) habitat availability, and home ranges were larger with increasing amounts of federal land. Throughout their annual cycle, female deer in the Alsea WMU used forest ages 0-3 years and 11-20 years in greater proportion to its availability and more than other land cover categories in establishing home ranges. Female deer also spent disproportionately more time in the same forest types within their home ranges. In the Indigo WMU, female deer used all land cover categories in proportion to availability in establishing and within home ranges. During periods of anticipated deer herbivory (i.e., damage) to conifer plantations in early summer (May 20 to July 4) and winter (November 25 to March 17), female black-tailed deer also used early (forest age 0-3 years) and mid-seral (forest age 11-20 years) forest cover types in greater proportion than available within their home ranges. Although I did not quantify deer health or population dynamics, my results support the hypothesis that food and cover are more readily available and used by female black-tailed deer on industrial forestlands than federal forestlands in western Oregon. Future studies should investigate the effects that black-tailed deer habitat use is having on fitness at multiple scales.
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