Evaluation of a Translocated Population of Desert Mule Deer in the Chihuahuan Desert of Northern Coahuila, Mexico
Authors: A. Ortega-Sanchez
Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are large (30–150 kg) ungulates that occur from southern Alaska to the desert mountains, grasslands, and coastal regions of northern and western Mexico. In Mexico, conservation efforts have taken place to reestablish mule deer to their original distribution; however, little information exists on these species. I evaluated post-release movements and vegetation type preferences of translocated desert mule deer in northern Coahuila, Mexico comparing soft- and hard-release as methods of liberation. Translocated mule deer presented difference in dispersal distance from the release site of soft- versus hard- release methods (P = 0.001); however, no difference existed when comparing post-release range sizes of deer released using these methods (P = 0.793). Mule deer habitat was characterized in 3 different classes: creosote flats, lechuguilla hills, and xeroriparian vegetation types. At second order analysis, xeroriparian vegetation type had a higher use/availability ratio (Sxeroriparian = 3.68). At third order habitat selection, 1 of 15 individuals used xeroriparian vegetation type in lesser proportion than its availability (S <1.0) on the upland study area. Six of 15 individuals used xeroriparian vegetation type randomly (S = 1.0–1.1). Eight of 15 individuals used xeroriparian vegetation type in greater proportion than its availability (S >1.1). Translocated mule deer preferred (P = 0.002) to use xeroriparian (9.2% ) greater than their availability (2.5%); use of Lechuguilla hills (63%) presented no difference (P = 0.005) from its availability (64%); and use of creosote flats (25%) was different (P = 0.004) when compared to its availability (34%). Considering the results of my research, I conclude the use of soft-release method is a reliable and successful method for reducing post-release movement of desert mule deer. Although their home ranges may not be reduced in size, translocated mule deer that are soft-released tend to establish their ranges closer to their release site. I provide a guide that describes the options for reintroducing mule deer in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico.
(2013). Evaluation of a Translocated Population of Desert Mule Deer in the Chihuahuan Desert of Northern Coahuila, Mexico. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University.