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Twenty-year Home-range Dynamics
of a White-tailed Deer Matriline


Research and management of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) have focused primarily on the relationship between habitat and physiological condition and their contribution to reproduction (Halls 1984). That living space and habitat availability could be constrained by such factors as social and genetic relationships to neighbors has been little studied (Miller 1974; Staines 1974).

However, female white-tailed deer live in multigeneration matriarchies (Townsend and Smith 1933; Palmer 1951; Severinghaus and Cheatum 1956; Hawkins and Klimstra 1970), which potentially leads to resource competition among relatives and nonrelatives alike. Nixon et al. (1991) found yearling daughters sharing home ranges with their mothers throughout life, and related females with 100% home-range overlap successfully raising fawns but never being radiolocated together during the fawn-rearing period. Ozoga et al. (1982), studying an enclosed herd, also documented spatial exclusion among related females during fawning. Both studies confirmed what has long been regarded as typical behavior by maternal females, social and spatial seclusion in the presence of their newborn fawns (Townsend and Smith 1933; Palmer 1951; Hirth 1977). These studies examined spatial dynamics between mothers and various-aged daughters for up to 4 years.

A recent model of home-range dynamics of white-tailed deer proposes that populations expand spatially through slow incremental proliferation by progeny from matriarchal core ranges (Porter et al. 1991). The accuracy of such modeling depends upon a knowledge of long-term home-range dynamics of matriarchal units, including several generations. However, these dynamics and their effects on potential range extension remain largely unknown.

We report here the home-range dynamics of one multigeneration matriarchy comprising six females over a 20-year period and further evaluate these dynamics in the context of the white-tailed deer's range extension, based on our knowledge of deer dispersal (Hawkins and Klimstra 1970; Tierson et al. 1985; Dusek et al. 1989; Nelson 1993).

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