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Effects of demography and urbanization on stress and body condition in urban white-tailed deer

  • Emily J. PotratzEmail author
  • Joel S. Brown
  • Travis Gallo
  • Chris Anchor
  • Rachel M. Santymire
Article

Abstract

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are becoming increasingly common in urban environments. How they respond to potential changes (i.e. increased human interactions, traffic, overabundance) can influence herd health. We aimed to develop a technique that quantifies stress in deer using hair cortisol concentrations (HCC). Our objectives were to test for: 1) a relationship between HCC and deer body condition score (BCS); 2) effects of sex, age, and location on HCC; and 3) effects of herd density and urbanization on HCC. Using the HCC of 59 culled deer from 8 sites (Cook County, IL USA), of which 7 sites were part of yearly herd management to maintain population sizes (site was managed) and 1 site was not (un-managed), we found deer with the poorest BCS had the highest HCC (P < 0.01). We then compared HCC from 342 deer, from 24 managed sites in 4 counties (IL, USA), to test for the effects of biological and environmental factors. Results showed sex and age did not influence HCC (sex; P = 0.13, age; P = 0.18), while site location did (P < 0.01). We then modeled HCC from the 24 managed sites as a function of two site variables that could influence HCC: herd density (deer/km2) and urbanization (presence of roads, buildings, vegetation), and found neither had a significant effect. In conclusion, HCC is correlated to BCS and is a non-invasive metric of health. Herd density, if left unmanaged (Objective 1), is a more important driver of individual health than degree of urbanization.

Keywords

Population density Chicago Hair cortisol concentration Urban wildlife management Ungulate 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Patrick Wolff and Matthew Mulligan for assistance with coordination of the sample collection and lab work. We are grateful to the forest preserve districts of Cook, DuPage, Lake, and McHenry counties for collecting samples. Funding was provided by The Davee Foundation.

Supplementary material

11252_2019_856_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (625 kb)
Online Resource 1 (PDF 625 kb)
11252_2019_856_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (80 kb)
Online Resource 2 (PDF 79 kb)

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Davee Center for Epidemiology and EndocrinologyChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Integrated Mathematical Oncology, Moffitt Cancer CenterTampaUSA
  4. 4.Urban Wildlife InstituteChicagoUSA
  5. 5.Forest Preserve District of Cook CountyElginUSA

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