White-Tailed Deer Habitat and Winter Diets in the Black Hills, South Dakota
The purpose of this study was to determine available plant production, gain a better understanding of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus ) diets from rumen contents and to determine the relationship between availability of plants and diets during winter months. This study was conducted in the Black Hills of South Dakota in two areas, Experimental Forest and McVey Burn. Available plant production was collected on the McVey burn during 1972-1973 and one year in the Experimental Forest in 1981, on 14 m2 / ha basal area, representative of Forest Management. Microhistological analysis of white tailed deer rumens was used to identify and quantify diets by plant species and life forms. Deer diets on the Experimental Forest consisted of 63 percent shrubs, 22 percent graminoids and 6 percent forbs. Diets of deer on the McVey Burn were similar with 59 percent shrubs, 14 percent graminoids, and 12 percent forbs. For both study areas, five common species comprised the greatest portion of deer diets. Key forage species were prairie sagewort (Artemisia frigida ), willow (Salix species ), kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa ), and bluegrasses (Poa species ). Shrubs were the most important food items in deer diets. Future habitat management efforts should be directed toward improving shrub production for white-tailed deer winter consumption. Similarity indices ranged from 0 to 88 percent, an indication that some plants were highly selected or avoided by deer (low similarities) and other plants were consumed in similar proportions as available on both areas. Rank order correlations were low and ranged from r = -0.22 on the Experimental Forest to r = 0.11 indicating white-tailed deer were not selecting plants in the same proportions as their availability.