Ultimate causes of animal dispersal have been hypothesized to benefit the dispersing individual because dispersal reduces competition for local resources, potential for inbreeding, and competition for breeding partners. However, proximate cues influence important features of dispersal behavior, including when dispersal occurs, how long it lasts, and direction, straightness, and distance of the dispersal path. Therefore, proximate cues that affect dispersal influence ecological processes (e.g., population dynamics, disease transmission, gene flow). We captured and radio-marked 277 juvenile female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), of which 27 dispersed, to evaluate dispersal behavior and to determine proximate cues that may influence dispersal behavior. Female dispersal largely occurred at 1 year of age and coincided with the fawning season. Dispersal paths varied but generally were non-linear and prolonged. Physical landscape features (i.e., roadways, rivers, residential areas) influenced dispersal path direction and where dispersal terminated. Additionally, forays outside of the natal range that did not result in dispersal occurred among 52% of global positioning system (GPS)-collared deer (n = 25) during the dispersal period. Our results suggest intra-specific social interactions and physical landscape features influence dispersal behavior in female deer. Female dispersal behavior, particularly the lack of directionality, the semi-permeable nature of physical barriers, and the frequency of forays outside of the natal range, should be considered in regard to population management and controlling the spread of disease.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation