We studied resource partitioning between sympatric populations of Columbian white-tailed (CWTD; Odocoileus virginianus leucurus) and black-tailed (BWTD) deer (O. odocoileus hemionus columbianus) in western Oregon to understand potential mechanisms of coexistence. We used horseback transects to describe spatial distributions, population overlap, and habitat use for both species, and we studied diets with microhistological analysis of fecal samples. Distribution patterns indicated that white-tailed and black-tailed deer maintained spatial separation during most seasons with spatial overlap ranging from 5%–40% seasonally. Coefficients of species association were negative, suggesting a pattern of mutual avoidance. White-tailed deer were more concentrated in the southern portions of the study area, which was characterized by lower elevations, more gradual slopes, and close proximity to streams. Black-tailed deer were more wide ranging and tended to occur in the northern portions of the study area, which had higher elevations and greater topographical variation. Habitat use of different vegetative assemblages was similar between white-tailed and black-tailed deer with overlap ranging from 89%–96% seasonally. White-tailed deer used nearly all habitats available on the study area except those associated with conifers. White-tailed deer used oak-hardwood savanna shrub, open grassland, oak-hardwood savanna, and riparian habitats the most. Black-tailed deer exhibited high use for open grassland and oak-hardwood savanna shrub habitats and lower use of all others. The 2 subspecies also exhibited strong seasonal similarities in diets with overlap ranging from 89% to 95%. White-tailed deer diets were dominated by forbs, shrubs, grasses, and other food sources (e.g., nuts and lichens). Columbian black-tailed deer diets were dominated mostly by forbs and other food sources. Seasonal diet diversity followed similar patterns for both species with the most diverse diets occurring in fall and the least diverse diets in spring. High overlap in habitat use and diets resulted in high trophic overlap (81–85%) between white-tailed and black-tailed deer; however, the low spatial overlap reduced the potential for exploitative competition but may have been indicative of inference competition between the species. Diverse habitat and forage opportunities were available on the study area due to heterogeneous landscape characteristics, which allowed ecological separation between white-tailed and black-tailed deer despite similarities in diets and habitat use. We make several recommendations for management of CWTD, a previously threatened species, based on the results of our study.
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Vol. 75 • No. 3