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1 December 2012 The Effects of Extreme Drought on Native Forage Nutritional Quality and White-Tailed Deer Diet Selection
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Forage availability is often used as a measure of habitat quality for Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer; hereafter “Deer”). Many studies have evaluated treatment effects on forage availability, but the effects of other abiotic factors, such as drought, on native forages and Deer diet selection are poorly understood. We measured diet selection and nutritional quality of commonly occurring forages following extreme drought (2007) and normal rainfall years (2008) in 4 closed-canopied hardwood stands in the Central Hardwoods region. Deer selected 6 forage species in both years of the study. Within these 6 species, crude protein (CP) and acid detergent fiber (ADF) were not different, and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) increased during the year of normal rainfall. Thirteen other commonly occurring forages showed a different trend, with CP negatively affected by drought and ADF and NDF unaffected. Less-selected species in the drought year and a greater selection-index cut-off value suggest Deer were more selective of species consumed during extreme drought because fewer plants met their nutritional requirements. Our data support the selective quality hypothesis, predicting Deer become more selective of plant species to meet nutritional requirements when resources are limited. Our data suggest more frequent and intense droughts predicted as a result of global climate change may influence diet selection of deer and decrease forage quality enough to limit lactation during the late-summer stress period in the Southeast.
Marcus A. Lashley and Craig A. Harper "The Effects of Extreme Drought on Native Forage Nutritional Quality and White-Tailed Deer Diet Selection," Southeastern Naturalist 11(4), (1 December 2012).

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