Seasonal Diets and Foraging Selectivity of White-tailed Deer in the Rolling Plains Ecological Region of Texas
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The Rolling Plains is the largest ecological region in Texas with 41 % classified as habitat for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). A study of the seasonal food habits of white-tailed deer within the Rolling Plains using rumen samples for dietary analysis occurred from December 1999 to August 2001. A total of317 deer were collected for rumen analysis. Collections were made quarterly at eight sites. Vegetation was sampled at the time of collections to profile food resources available to deer. I sampled herbaceous vegetation along 100-m transects using 0.25 m2 Daubenmire quadrats. Woody vegetation was sampled using 100-m line intercepts during spring collections. Rumen contents were analyzed using the point-frame method. Plant fragments were identified to species by microscopic and microhistological techniques. Diets varied by season and collection site. Browse composed the largest portion (30%) of deer diets, followed by forbs (28% ), grasses (19% ), mast (18% ), and supplemental/crop foods (4%). Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), Japanese brome (Bromus japonicus ), sand shin oak (Quercus havardii), prickly pear cactus ( Opuntia spp.), and plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides) made up large portions of deer diets. Results of rumen and vegetational analyses were used to determine selective foraging by deer. Selected species included plains cottonwood, skunkbush (Rhus aromatica), Osage orange (Madura pomifera ), redberry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii), mistletoe (Phoradendron tomentosum), and black willow (Salix nigra). Other important forage species included Japanese brome, honey mesquite, prickly pear cactus, sand shin oak, prickly ash (Zanthoxylum hirsutum), and dayflower (Commelina erecta).
CitationBurke, K. M. (2003). Seasonal diets and foraging selectivity of white-tailed deer in the rolling plains ecological region of Texas (Unpublished thesis). Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.
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