Mule Deer Seasonal Home Ranges

A home range can be defined as the area needed for an animal to conduct normal activities such as foraging, mating, and caring for young. Within this space, habitat requirements include food, escape cover, and water. In arid environments like the Trans-Pecos region, resources are limited so mule deer require large home ranges to survive. 

From 2006 – 2011, we captured 40 mature  (4.5-7.5 years old) mule deer bucks from 2 ranches near the Apache Mountains in west Texas. GPS collars were placed on each deer, which collected locations every 5 hours for up to 2 years. The use of supplemental feed (protein pellets) was utilized on one property, while the other ranch did not feed. We estimated annual and seasonal home ranges for the radioed bucks.

The average annual home range for mature mule deer bucks on the ranch with supplemental feed was 8,723 acres, while home ranges averaged 11,130 acres without supplemental feed. Winter home ranges, (Dec–Feb) which includes the breeding season, were significantly larger than any other season with home range averages of 8,970 acres (fed) and 10,157 acres (unfed). Seasonal home ranges were smallest during the fall at 5,097 acres (fed) and 6,350 acres (unfed).

We also learned that mule deer bucks have the ability to move over tremendous amounts of terrain in a very short periods of time. On average, bucks may move 5-6 miles away from the center of their home range, but are capable of moving over 20 miles in a 24-hour time period.

deer

Mature mule deer bucks were captured with helicopters and netguns, restrained, radioed with GPS collars, and released.

locations

We recorded almost 100,000 GPS points from 40 mature mule deer bucks over the 5-year study.

rangesizes

A comparison of seasonal and annual home range sizes (acres) for mature mule deer bucks on ranches with and without supplemental feeding program.