Forest cover influences dispersal distance of white-tailed deer

Eric S. Long, Duane R. Diefenbach, Christopher S. Rosenberry, Bret D. Wallingford, Marrett D. Grund

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114 Scopus citations


Animal dispersal patterns influence gene flow, disease spread, population dynamics, spread of invasive species, and establishment of rare or endangered species. Although differences in dispersal distances among taxa have been reported, few studies have described plasticity of dispersal distance among populations of a single species. In 2002-2003, we radiomarked 308 juvenile (7- to 10-month-old), male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in 2 study areas in Pennsylvania. By using a meta-analysis approach, we compared dispersal rates and distances from these populations together with published reports of 10 other nonmigratory populations of white-tailed deer. Population density did not influence dispersal rate or dispersal distance, nor did forest cover influence dispersal rate. However, average (r2 = 0.94, P < 0.001, d.f. = 9) and maximum (r2 = 0.86, P = 0.001, d.f. = 7) dispersal distances of juvenile male deer were greater in habitats with less forest cover. Hence, dispersal behavior of this habitat generalist varies, and use of landscape data to predict population-specific dispersal distances may aid efforts to model population spread, gene flow, or disease transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-629
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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