Factors affecting survival of adult female white-tailed deer after coyote establishment in South Carolina
Recent evidence from the southeastern United States of high predation rates by coyotes (Canis latrans) on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawns combined with reports of predation on adult female deer have prompted concern among wildlifemanagers and hunters regarding the effects ondeer populations.We examined survival rates and causes of mortality among 138 radiocollared adult female deer over 7 years at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, USA, 2006–2013. Our model-averaged prediction of annual survival was 0.871 (95% CI¼0.839–0.902) and did not vary among years. The best model describing survival patterns included only month, with survival being lowest during November–December, which coincided with hunting season. Models assessing the effects of harvest and distance from a primary road also received support (DAICc<2.0), but effects of these variables were weak. Although harvest rates were low, harvest was the most frequent cause of mortality (13 of 30; 43%), followed by deer–vehicle collision (8 of 30; 27%).Wedid not detect predation as a cause of death among our sample; although cause of death for 7 (23%) mortalities was unknown. Even if all unknown mortalities were caused by predation, the overall effect of these mortalities on annual survival was low. Therefore, we conclude that predation by coyotes on adult females was not important in the SRS deer population demography. Managers of southern deer populations wishing to increase population growth by limiting antlerless harvest should be aware that adult female survival may already be high, so limited increases in survival may be expected, particularly if antlerless harvest already is limited. Published 2016.