Estimating White-tail Deer Population Density At Cannon's Point Preserve, St. Simons Island, GA
Authors: Madison Barnard, Kaylee Clayton, Ricky Livermore, Dan O'Keefe, and Trent Williams
C. Tate Holbrook, Ph.D.
Cannon’s Point Preserve (CPP) is protected and managed by the St. Simons Land Trust, with the goal of enhancing the health of rare species, natural communities, biodiversity, and ecological processes. White-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, readily browse on CPP’s native vegetation, including sensitive maritime forest species. Intense herbivory pressure can prevent recruitment of plant populations, making it important to determine deer population density to guide conservation management. For our service-learning project in BIOL 4020 Conservation Biology, we established a trail camera deer survey at CPP. Individual bucks will be identified based on body size, antlers, and markings. The number of bucks will be used to estimate the numbers of does and fawns and the total population size of deer. Estimates from the camera survey will be compared to spotlight surveys, and repeated annual surveys will be used to detect population trends over time. This project has given us insights into the importance of population estimates for the health of ecosystems, as well as hands-on survey experience that will benefit us in our future careers.