Hurricane Sandy provided a unique opportunity to better understand the movements of Fire Island’s dense white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus borealis) herds. White-tailed deer inhabit all areas of Fire Island National Seashore and their high densities negatively affect native vegetation in several areas of the island, especially as disturbed areas attempt to recover after a catastrophic storm like Hurricane Sandy. Understanding deer movements and space use helps land managers to prioritize white-tailed deer population size and the health and recovery potential of Fire Island’s natural lands according to their management goals. The results of this study will inform Fire Island staff as they prepare to initiate the tasks set forth by the Seashore’s approved Deer Management Plan.
We used radio-collars fitted with Very High Frequency (VHF) signal and Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to monitor movements of white-tailed deer for four years after Hurricane Sandy. The greatest movements of Fire Island’s adult female white-tailed deer occurred in spring each year. Home range and core area sizes varied among study areas and years, but suggested hierarchical dominance among Fire Island’s deer populations. Potentially six distinct populations were delineated through analysis of GPS radio-collar data, though these divisions also reflect the concentrated sampling efforts of deer capture. Nearly all deer monitored shared time between natural and nearby built environments. Since Hurricane Sandy, deer movements in Fire Island’s Wilderness are divided by the storm-induced breach. GPS radio-collars provided a wealth of data for analysis of deer movements and space use, and this report is simply a snapshot of the potential information we intend to gain from this study.