Forecasting the effects of fertility control on overabundant ungulates: White-tailed deer in the National Capital Region

PLoS ONE
By: , and 

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Abstract

Overabundant populations of ungulates have caused environmental degradation and loss of biological diversity in ecosystems throughout the world. Culling or regulated harvest is often used to control overabundant species. These methods are difficult to implement in national parks, other types of conservation reserves, or in residential areas where public hunting may be forbidden by policy. As a result, fertility control has been recommended as a non-lethal alternative for regulating ungulate populations. We evaluate this alternative using white-tailed deer in national parks in the vicinity of Washington, D.C., USA as a model system. Managers seek to reduce densities of white-tailed deer from the current average (50 deer per km2) to decrease harm to native plant communities caused by deer. We present a Bayesian hierarchical model using 13 years of population estimates from 8 national parks in the National Capital Region Network. We offer a novel way to evaluate management actions relative to goals using short term forecasts. Our approach confirms past analyses that fertility control is incapable of rapidly reducing deer abundance. Fertility control can be combined with culling to maintain a population below carrying capacity with a high probability of success. This gives managers confronted with problematic overabundance a framework for implementing management actions with a realistic assessment of uncertainty.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Forecasting the effects of fertility control on overabundant ungulates: White-tailed deer in the National Capital Region
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0143122
Volume 10
Issue 12
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher PLoS
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description e0143122; 24 p.
Country United States
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N