Prescribed burning is a recommended maintenance treatment following mechanical treatments of south Texas brushlands, but it is unknown whether it is preferable to additional mechanical treatments to improve habitat for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus Raf.). We tested the hypotheses that prescribed burning of aerated (top-growth removal of woody plants) plots during late summer would decrease protein-precipitating tannins in browse, increase forb biomass, and increase deer utilization compared to a second aeration. Ten patches of brush, ranging in size from 2.8–8.1 ha, were aerated during spring 1999. In late summer 2000, maintenance treatments were applied; 5 patches were burned and 5 were aerated a second time. Standing crop, nutritional quality, and tannin concentrations (browse only) of deer forages were estimated. Deer tracks crossing bulldozed lanes surrounding each patch were counted to estimate deer use. Standing crop of browse, forbs, grass, succulents, protein-precipitating tannins in browse, and track density did not differ between treatments. Based on deer use and forage biomass response, burning and a second aeration 16–17 months following an initial aeration appear to have similar effects on habitat characteristics and use of cleared patches by white-tailed deer. Because of lower cost, we recommended prescribed burning as a maintenance treatment of aerated shrublands.
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