Dispersal behavior in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) predominantly occurs in 1-year-old males; however, females of the same age also disperse. The timing of female dispersal during fawning season and low dispersal rates suggest that competition for mates and reduced inbreeding are not ultimate causes of female dispersal, as suggested for males. We proposed that female dispersal is the result of competition for space when pregnant females seek to isolate themselves before and after parturition. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a meta-analysis of female dispersal rates from 12 populations of white-tailed deer and predicted dispersal rate and distance were positively related to deer density. We found a positive relationship between dispersal rate and deer per forested km2 and between dispersal distance and deer per forested km2. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that female dispersal is density-dependent and caused by the exclusion of subordinate 1-year-olds as adult females seek isolation before and after parturition.
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Vol. 96 • No. 3