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1 January 2015 Density dependence in mule deer: a review of evidence
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Abstract

Wildlife managers often need tangible evidence of density dependence in populations to support decision making. Field experimentation to identify density dependent effects is often cost and time prohibitive. Thus, assimilation of existing knowledge into a balance of probabilities can serve as a surrogate for experimental research. A case study of such a process is found in the mule deer Odocoileus hemionus herds of Colorado. Wildlife managers and hunters expressed concern over a recent decline in western Colorado mule deer herds, yet the underlying cause of this decline is yet to be determined. In response to this management concern, we conducted a review of scientific evidence on Colorado's mule deer population dynamics. This review was done in the context of a conceptual model that portrays population growth as a function of population size, per capita growth rate and population carrying capacity. Similar declines that occurred during the 1960s and early 1990s resulted in similar reviews that identified research and management topics that would benefit mule deer. These topics included: harvest, predation, intraspecific competition, disease, interspecific competition, and habitat loss and degradation. Between the late 1990s and present time, many of these topics were addressed by research. The conventional working hypothesis in Colorado is that mule deer herds are limited by winter range habitat. We identify new gaps in knowledge and suggest potential, future research topics, as well as potential management strategies. We suggest a focus on integrated studies of multiple herbivores with density reduction experiments to address intra- and inter- specific competition. In addition, we suggest focused experiments that address the roles of mountain lion predation, black bear predation, and disease in mule deer population dynamics.

© 2015 The Authors. This is an Open Access article
Eric J. Bergman, Paul F. Doherty Jr., Gary C. White, and A. Andrew Holland "Density dependence in mule deer: a review of evidence," Wildlife Biology 21(1), 18-29, (1 January 2015). https://doi.org/10.2981/wlb.00012
Accepted: 1 October 2014; Published: 1 January 2015
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