As a post-doc at Washington State University, I am currently working with Dr. Dan Thornton and Dr. Lisa Shipley on a project to estimate densities of ungulates in forested landscapes. Changes in forest management over the last century, such as fuels reductions through thinning and prescribed burning, has influenced the populations and distributions of both mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in forested landscapes. However, because deer are difficult to survey in forested landscapes using traditional methods (e.g., capture and telemetry, transect surveys), biologists currently lack a method to reliably estimate densities within these landscapes. Furthermore, we have a poor understanding of the spatial and temporal segregation of mule deer and white-tailed, or of differences between the species in how they select habitat. Our project aims to address these problems by testing and validating a novel method that uses camera traps to estimate species-specific densities within the Colville National Forest in northeastern Washington. We will follow newly established protocols for estimating densities of unmarked animals using distance sampling with camera traps. We will then determine the effects of forest thinning treatments and how mule deer and white-tailed deer partition habitat by developing occupancy models using camera data collected in the study area. Finally, we will validate the camera methodology for estimating density of deer by comparing estimated density metrics from camera traps to known deer densities using tractable deer in large-scale enclosures. Our project will develop and test a new method to efficiently estimate densities of large game species in areas where animal capture is not feasible and will provide a better understanding of how fuels reduction treatments influence habitat use and densities of mule deer, white-tailed deer and moose.
A white-tailed deer doe and her two fawns in Colville National Forest, Washington
A bull moose in Colville National Forest, Washington
A white-tailed deer buck in Colville National Forest, Washington