West Kootenay Mule Deer Project Progress Report

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					                             WEST KOOTENAY MULE DEER
                             PROJECT PROGRESS REPORT

                                          PREPARED BY
                                           John Gwilliam

                         Columbia Basin Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program

                                           October 1999
                CBFWCP Project Progress Report
Project Name:      West Kootenay Mule Deer

April 01, 1996 - September 30, 1998

By:   John Gwilliam and Ian Parfitt
      Columbia Basin Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program

Date: October 15, 1999

Co-operators:      CBFWCP
                   BCE, Kootenay Region
                   US Forest Service
                   BC Forest Service - Arrow Small Business Program
                   Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife
                   Washington State University - Pullman, Washington
Executive Summary
This progress report for the West Kootenay Mule Deer Project (Task W96M006) presents the preliminary findings
for the first 30 months of field activity up to 30 September 1998 and outlines the direction to the end of the project.
Initially the study area encompassed the mule deer winter range found on the south slopes above the South Salmo
River from Stagleap Ranch to the Canada/USA border. In the second year of the project the study area was
expanded to include mule deer winter range in the lower Corn Creek/Teetzel Creek area. Expansion was necessary
to access greater numbers of deer for collaring. Low numbers of deer on the South Salmo study area made it
difficult to maintain an adequate sample of collared deer.

A total of 22 (2M, 20F) mule deer were captured and collared. Clover traps (30 trap-nights) accounted for 2 deer
with helicopter net-guns (8 helicopter sessions) accounting for the other 20. Capture success varied by month and
year with best results in March and April. Three of the nine mortalities detected during the study were caused by
cougars (cougars were suspected in one other death as well), one was killed by a vehicle, and one died of natural
causes. We were unable to determine the cause of death for the remaining three deer.

Movement patterns of individual deer fit three broad patterns. They included (1) indistinct seasonal ranges -
impossible to distinguish seasonal boundaries (2) distinct seasonal ranges - winter and summer were distinct entities
separated by more than 4 km. (3) adjacent seasonal ranges - winter and summer ranges were readily identified but
separated by less 4 km. Migration distances, based on distances between the center of the winter and summer ranges
averaged 14.5 km for all deer with distinct and adjacent seasonal ranges (range=3.2-33.1km, n=14). Summer home
ranges (100% MCP) of female deer with distinct seasonal ranges varied from 1.06 km2 to 4.04 km2. Winter home
ranges (100%MCP) of female deer with distinct seasonal ranges varied from 1.23 km2 to 7.66 km2. Two does
captured on the South Salmo River winter range in 1997 appeared to have emigrated from the study area as they
wintered near Sullivan Lake in Washington State in 1998.

The average annual survival for radiocollared female mule deer of 0.63 suggests declining deer populations in the
South Salmo/Corn Creek area.

During the course of this project, 6 winter sites in need of enhancement, through burning and manual slashing, were
identified by program staff.

The focus for the remainder of the project will be assembling GIS databases (Forest Cover, TRIM, TEM) to enable
the graduate student to proceed with the habitat analysis.

Table of Contents
Background                               1

Objectives                              1

Study Area                               1

Methods                                  1

Results to Date                          3

Habitat Enhancement Revelations         6

Future Activities                       6

Recommendations and Suggestions          6

References                               6

Map 1- Mule Deer Study Area - South Salmo River + Corn Creek.     9

Map 2 - All Telemetry Locations To September 30,1998.             Sleeve

Map 3 - Indistinct Seasonal Ranges - Example: Female 1171         10

Map 4 - Distinct Seasonal Ranges - Example: Female 2061           11

Map 5 - Adjacent Seasonal Ranges - Example: Female 2461           12

Map 6 - Spring/Fall Transitional Ranges - Example: Female 0452    13

Numerous people have assisted on this project. Special thanks to fixed-wing pilot Dave Mair for his skillful flying
and to Ross Clarke for his assistance in deer trapping/collaring and monitoring. Thanks to Maryann McDonaugh for
helping out with the deer collaring, Erin Parton for monitoring collared deer, and to Hugh Robinson for calculating
survival data and deer immobilization, and Dave Lewis for deer immobilization. Special thanks to Columbia Basin
Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and the Arrow Forest District Small Business Program for funding this

In 1996, the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (CBFWCP) in
partnership with BC Environment, BC Forest Service, US Forest Service, Washington State
Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Washington State University initiated a population study
of mule deer in the South Selkirk Mountains (SSM) near Salmo, B.C. (Gwilliam 1996). The
project was developed in response to declining mule deer populations regionally and provincially
and concerns over mule deer population recovery, increased developmental pressures in mule
deer habitat and lack of inventory and habitat requirement information to base management
decisions upon. The South Salmo/Corn Creek Mule Deer Project (Task W96M006) is in its 3rd
year of five.
This progress report presents the initial results for the first 30 months of field activity up to 30
September 1998, and summarizes field priorities for 1999-2001. Data analysis is minimal since
sample sizes are relatively small.

(1) Determine mule deer winter habitat use in the South Salmo River area of the SSM.
(2) Determine the population size of mule deer wintering on the south slopes above the South
    Salmo River using mark-recapture(resight) techniques.
(3) Determine and quantify mortality sources of mule deer in the SSM.
(4) Determine the natality of female mule deer in the SSM.
(5) Produce biologically based management recommendations for mule deer populations in the

Study Area
Initially the study area encompassed the mule deer winter range found on the south slopes above the South Salmo
River from Stagleap Ranch upstream to the Canada/USA border (Map 1). Biogeoclimatic variants in the area
included ICHxw, ICHdw and ICHwm2 (Marcoux et al 1996). The study area was expanded in the second year of
the project to include the south slopes above Teetzel Creek and Corn Creek, downstream of Buckworth Creek. Both
Corn and Teetzel Creeks found in the ICHdw variant, drain into the Kootenay River near the Creston Valley
Wildlife management area. Expansion was necessary to access greater numbers of deer for radiocollaring. Low
numbers of deer on the South Salmo portion of the study area made it difficult to maintain an adequate sample of
radiocollared deer.


Trapping and Animal Capture
Mule deer were captured using collapsible, single door, Clover-type traps (Clover 1956) and
aerial net-guns (Barret et al. 1982) from a Hughes 500 helicopter. Use of the Clover-type traps
was limited due to elk/mule deer overlap on much of the winter range.
Mule deer were manually restrained, blindfolded and fitted with an LMRT-4 radiocollar with a
6-hour mortality delay (Lotek Engineering Inc., Newmarket, Ontario). Sex, general condition
and anomolies were noted for each deer. We identified deer age classes (fawn, yearling and

adult) by tooth replacement. More precise ages were determined for dead radiocollared deer
from tooth wear (Severinghaus 1949, Robinette et al.1957).

Habitat Use and Home Range
To collect habitat and movement/migration data mule deer, attempts were made to locate them
from the air using a Cessna 337 on an average of three times a month from June through
September and 4 times a month from October through May. Location data collection followed
that of McLellan and Flaa (1993) and Krebs and Lewis (1997) and included: UTM co-ordinates
(NAD 27 or 83), Forest Cover Polygon Label (Species, Age, Height, Crown Closure),
Biogeoclimatic Subzone, elevation, aspect, slope, and activity of animal if discernable. Location
data precision was assumed to be +/- 100m. For this report, seasonal home ranges were
expressed as minimum convex polygons (MCP)(Mohr 1947). Migration distances were
calculated as the distances between centroids of seasonal ranges (100% MCP). Biogeoclimatic
linework at 1:250,000 available from BCE Kootenay Regional GIS section was used to tally
radio telemetry locations. Future habitat use analyses will treat individual mule deer separately
to enable comparisons.

Mortality and Reproduction
To collect mortality data mule deer were monitored from the ground 5 to 6 times weekly from
May through September and 2 to 3 times weekly for the remainder of the year. The increased
intensity is necessary to more reliably determine cause of death especially during the summer
months when cougar, black bear and mule deer home ranges overlap. It became apparent early
on in the project that it is critical to monitor the deer almost daily for parts of the year. Should a
deer die and the carcass start smelling there is a high probability of a black bear destroying
evidence of other forms of predation. Mortalities were detected via 6 hour delay mortality
sensors built into the radiocollar. Only cases where the radiocollar and carcass or parts of the
carcass were recovered were considered mortalities. Where the collar only was recovered it was
coded as unknown. Where the carcass was located, a necropsy was performed on site.
Ground telemetry was used in an attempt to confirm reproduction. This involved locating the
general area that a specific doe was in, finding a good vantage point and watching the area for
the doe and evidence/presence of fawns.

Survival Estimation
Survival rates were determined using MICROMORT (Heisey and Fuller 1985). Because of
small sample sizes we pooled sexes.

Results to Date

Live Trapping: 1996-97
A total of 17 mule deer (16F; 1M) were captured during the first year of trapping (Table 1). The
female sample included 3 fawns and 13 mature does. Fifteen of the deer were captured using

aerial net-guns from a Hughes 500 helicopter, the other 2 in Clover-type traps. The highest
capture success was in late March.

Live Trapping: 1997-98
A total of 5 mule deer (4F; 1M) were captured during the second year of trapping (Table 1). All
the deer were captured using the helicopter capture technique with the highest success in early
April. Lower trapping success in 1997/98 was due primarily to moderate winter weather. This
allowed the deer to remain more widely dispersed and in some instances away from the limited
number of capture sites on the winter range. Also, mule deer population levels in the area
appeared to be down after the extremely harsh 1996/97 winter.
Table 1.       Summary of capture effort and captures for 1996-97 and 1997-98 by
              capture method and month.

Capture         Month            1996-97           1996-97         1997-98           1997-98
Method                           Capture           Deer            Capture           Deer
                                 Effort            Captures        Effort            Captures
Helicopter      February         1 heli session    1               0 heli sessions   0
                March            2 heli sessions   12              1 heli session    1
                April            1 heli session    2               3 heli sessions   4

Clover Trap     February         02 trap nights    0               0 trap nights     0
                March            22 trap nights    2               6 trap nights     0

Radio Telemetry
We obtained a total of 616 radio telemetry locations from 22 individual mule deer radiocollared
between 3 February 1997 and 30 September 1998 (Map 2). Data collected to date is somewhat
lower than anticipated, this due to a high rate of deer mortality and low capture success in the
second year of the project.

Deer Movements
(i) Movement Patterns of Individual Deer
Movements patterns of individual deer generally fit the three broad patterns identified by Pac et
al (1991). The categories include:
(1) Indistinct seasonal ranges (ISR)- there may some tendency for locations recorded during one
    season to cluster in a particular part of the total home range. However, numerous relocations
    could occur with equal probability in any portion of the home range during any season
    making it impossible to distinguish seasonal boundaries.
(2) Distinct seasonal ranges (DSR)- winter and summer were distinct entities separated by
    distances ranging from a few to a considerable number of kms. As distances between
    seasonal ranges increased, this movement pattern more closely resembled migration as
    characterized by Baker (1978).
(3) Adjacent seasonal ranges (ASR)- movements of deer displaying this pattern were
    characteristically intermediate of those of ISR and DSR deer. Winter and summer home

   ranges usually were readily identified but separated by less than 4 km. Attitudinal migration
   described by Harestad (1979) was similar to the ASR pattern.

Maps 3, 4 and 5 show examples of the above 3 movement/migration patterns.

(ii) Seasonal Use of Transitional Areas
Transitional areas used were similar to those identified by Pac et al (1991). They consisted of
areas or habitats, usually outside of normal seasonal home ranges, that were used occasionally by
deer either in addition to use of normal range or between periods of use of summer and winter
ranges. The types of transitional areas included winter, spring, early summer, late summer, and
autumn. Map 6 shows the spring/autumn transitional ranges used by F0452 who had a DSR
movement pattern.

(iii) Emigration
F0351 collared on the South Salmo River winter range in March 1997 moved 14km southeast to
summer in the Upper Priest River drainage in Idaho. However, in the 1997/98 she wintered near
Sullivan Lake in Washington State.

F1871 collared on the South Salmo River winter range in March 1997 moved 31km southeast to
summer in the Upper Cow Creek drainage in Idaho. However, in the 1997/98 winter she
wintered near Sullivan Lake in Washington State.

(iv) Migration Distances
Migration distances, based on distances between the center of the winter and summer home
ranges averaged 14.5km for all deer with DSR and ASR movement patterns (range = 3.2-
33.1km, n = 14).

Deer Home Ranges
Location data was exported to GIS for presentation and initial summary analysis (Map 2)
Summer and winter home ranges were estimated using 100% Mean Convex Polygon for 13
females and 1 male where the greatest number of locations were available (Table 2). A yearlong
home range size of 12.87km2 was calculated for a adult doe F1771 with indistinct seasonal
ranges. Preliminary home ranges of adult females with distinct seasonal ranges are similar to
those reported in the literature (summer: 0.9-3.2 km2; winter: 0.8-5.0 km2, c.f. Pac et al. 1991).
Our home ranges will no doubt be refined as more telemetry data is collected.

Table 2. Summer and winter home range analysis for 1 male and 13 female mule deer using
100% Minimum Convex Polygon (MCP) method.
Deer ID Summer Range(km2) No. Locs Winter Range(km2) No. Locs
3171(DSR)       0.61        08         0.50               10
0151(ASR)       4.34        38         1.84               18
0351(DSR)       2.19        18         7.66               08
0452(DSR)       1.06        13         2.88               14
0951(DSR)       2.11        21         6.94               34
1251(DSR)       0.92        10
1252(DSR)       2.91        13         1.35               15
1471(DSR)       1.70        22         2.71               35
1871(DSR)       4.04        21         2.37               09
2061(DSR)       2.59        15         3.99               29
2351(DSR)       2.70        23         3.81               28
2461(ASR)       2.32        25         0.91               19
2561(DSR)       1.66        14         1.23               29
2672(DSR)       1.45        17         1.27               15

Deer Mortality
To 30 September 1998, 9 mule deer have died, 1 killed by a vehicle on Highway 3 (F2061), 1 of
natural causes (F0451), 3 by cougars (F2671, F1971, F2461), and 3 unknowns (F2161, F2261,
F1251). One other deer (F1561) died of predator related causes as bite marks on the neck
suggested, however, disturbance of the site by a black bear prevented confirmation of the doe
having been killed by a cougar.

Deer Survivorship
Mean annual survival for radiocollared females was 0.63 (Table 3). Survival of 0.63 would
suggest a declining mule population. Adult female estimates of survival ranging from 0.78 to
0.86 have been documented in stable to increasing deer populations by other researchers (Gavin
et al. 1984, White et al. 1987, Dusek et al. 1989, Bartmann et al. 1992, McCorquodale 1999).
Table 3. Micromort estimate of mean annual survival (Apr-Mar) for radiocollared female mule
deer, South Salmo River + Corn Creek, BC, 1997-99.
  Years       No. at       No. of       No. of      Survival       95%        Variance
              Risk(n)      Deaths       Radio                   Confidence
                                        Days                     Interval
 1997-99         23          10          8034        0.6347       0.4788 -     0.00832

Population Estimation
The presence of marked animals will permit the estimation of the mule deer population size
using the study area during the winter months. Absolute abundance data will be collected using
mark-resight methods, and analysis will be conducted using NOREMARK (White 1996).
Habitat Enhancement Revelations
During the course of staff travels while working on this project a number of potential
enhancement sites on mule winter range were identified. They include:
1) Prescribed burning near Corn/Buckworth Creek - 82F007 Polygon 112.
2) Prescribed burning near Ezekiel Creek - 82F007 Polygon 515.
3) Prescribed burning near Rainy Creek - 82F005 Polygon 368.
4) Prescribed burning near Wilson Creek - 82F004 Polygon 1011.
5) Manual slashing near the confluence of Stagleap Creek and the South Salmo River - 82F005
   Polygons 374 and 402.

Future Activities
Priority 1. Increase radiocollared mule deer sample to allow survivorship to be determined for
bucks, does and fawns.
Priority 2. Maintain weekly mule deer telemetry flights.
Priority 3. Monitor female reproductive status.
Priority 4. Undertake population census through the use of mark-resight technique.
Priority 5. Assemble GIS databases (Forest Cover, TRIM, TEM) to enable habitat analysis
(using forest cover and TEM information) to proceed and to refine seasonal home range sizes.

Recommendations and Suggestions
Investigations into mule deer ecology and behavior in the Southern Columbia Mountains are
logistically difficult due to rugged terrain and therefore expensive. Anyone considering a mule
deer radio-telemetry study should be aware of the large commitment of time and effort required
to collect information especially on mortality and survivorship.

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