Influence of roads, rivers, and mountains on natal dispersal of white-tailed deer

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

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55 Scopus citations


Natural and anthropogenic landscape features, such as rivers, mountain ranges, and roads can alter animal dispersal paths and movement patterns. Consequently landscape, through its effects on dispersal, may influence many ecological processes, including disease transmission, invasion dynamics, and gene flow. To investigate influences of landscape features on dispersal patterns of a large mammal, we captured and radiomarked 363 juvenile male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), including 212 confirmed dispersers, in 2 topographically dissimilar study areas in Pennsylvania, USA. Dispersal azimuths were uniformly distributed in the western study area (WSA), where there was irregular, hilly topography. Mean dispersal azimuths paralleled ridge direction in the eastern study area, where long parallel ridges were aligned northeastsouthwest. Major roads in both areas and a large river in the WSA were semipermeable barriers to dispersal of juvenile males; dispersal paths were less likely to intersect these linear features. Dispersal movements were direct and brief, typically lasting <12 hours. For all dispersers, we found no evidence for preference or avoidance of establishing adult, postdispersal ranges in proximity to roads; however, deer that encountered roads near the terminus of their dispersal path were more likely to stop on the near side. Further, for deer that established postdispersal home ranges near major roads, these features influenced range placement such that locations were typically clustered on one side of the road. The influence of roads, rivers, and mountains on dispersal paths and postdispersal locations of white-tailed deer suggest that landscape-specific features should be considered in conservation and management of this and possibly other species of large mammals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1242-1249
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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