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Deer movement and resource selection during Hurricane Irma: implications for extreme climatic events and wildlife

Citation

Abernathy, Heather et al. (2019), Deer movement and resource selection during Hurricane Irma: implications for extreme climatic events and wildlife, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.f1vhhmgsk

Abstract

Extreme climatic events (ECEs) are increasing in frequency and intensity and this necessitates understanding their influence on organisms. Animal behavior may mitigate the effects of ECEs, but field studies are rare because ECEs are infrequent and unpredictable. Hurricane Irma made landfall in southwestern Florida where we were monitoring white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus seminolus) with GPS collars. We report on an opportunistic case study of behavioral responses exhibited by a large mammal during an ECE, mitigation strategies for reducing the severity of the ECE effects, and the demographic effect of the ECE based on known-fate of individual animals. Deer altered resource selection by selecting higher elevation pine and hardwood forests and avoiding marshes. Most deer left their home ranges during Hurricane Irma, and the probability of leaving was inversely related to home range area. Movement rates increased the day of the storm, and no mortality was attributed to Hurricane Irma. We suggest deer mobility and refuge habitat allowed deer to behaviorally mitigate the negative effects of the storm, and ultimately, aid in survival. Our work contributes to the small but growing body of literature linking behavioral responses exhibited during ECEs to survival, which cumulatively will provide insight for predictions of a species resilience to ECEs and improve our understanding of how behavioral traits offset the negative impacts of global climate change.