Habitat management influences overwinter survival of mule deer fawns in Colorado

Eric J. Bergman, Chad J. Bishop, David J. Freddy, Gary C. White, Paul F. Doherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


In the absence of natural or anthropogenic disturbance, many pinyon pine (Pinus edulis)-Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) woodland habitats reach late seral stages that encroach into forest openings. This encroachment typically occurs at the expense of browse species that are preferred by mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus). Wildlife managers often treat habitat management as a tool to bolster mule deer populations, but documented changes in deer vital rates in response to habitat manipulations are lacking. We evaluated the effects of different levels of habitat improvement on pinyon pine-Utah juniper winter ranges in Colorado on mule deer overwinter survival. Mule deer fawns that overwintered on areas that received both a traditional mechanical treatment as well as follow-up chemical treatments experienced increased survival (Ŝ=0.768, SE=0.0851) over fawns on winter range that had only received traditional mechanical treatments or no habitat treatments (Ŝ=0.675, SE=0.112). When treatment intensity was partitioned into 3 levels: no treatment, traditional mechanical treatments, and advanced treatments comprised of both mechanical and chemical treatments, mule deer fawns inhabiting winter range subjected to advanced treatments experienced higher survival (Ŝ=0.768, SE=0.0849) than fawns on units that experienced only traditional mechanical treatments (Ŝ=0.687, SE=0.108), which in turn experienced higher survival than fawns in areas that had received no habitat treatments (Ŝ=0.669, SE=0.113). Our study provides evidence that habitat management on winter ranges can positively influence a key vital rate for mule deer in pinyon pine-Utah juniper ecosystems. We recommend that as habitat treatments are planned for benefit of mule deer, those plans include follow-up reseeding and weed control efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-455
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Colorado
  • Odocoileus hemionus
  • fawn survival
  • habitat management
  • hydro-axe
  • mule deer
  • roller-chop


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