A deer feed preference and use study was initiated on the White-tailed Deer Breeding and Nutrition Research Center near Nacogdoches, TX on July 18, 2011. Two replications of three identical Boss Buck 600# Dr. Deer series gravity feeders (Boss Buck, Seagoville, TX) were established. Feeders were placed in areas known to have open access by deer and were placed with a 30-60 yard space between feeders to allow animals to make choices in visitations to individual feeders. All deer were previously accustomed to utilizing this particular style of pellet feeder. All deer were free-ranging within the confines of the high-fenced Research Center pastures and had open access to native vegetation in addition to the feed supplements used in the study.
One replicate of feeders was established in the Old Pasture that had a density of approximately 1 deer/4 acres and buck:doe ratio of approximately 2:1. The second replicate was established in the Dalmont Pasture that had a density of approximately 1 deer/2 acre and a buck:doe ratio of approximately 4:1. Feed types were assigned randomly to feeders once feeder locations were established. Feed types included Pro Antler 20% protein deer feed (Nutra Deer, Grove, OK), and the leading national feed brands classified for this study as feed brands (A) and (Z).
One infrared trail camera (Cuddeback Attack IR, Cuddeback Digital, De Pere, WI) was placed at each feeder to monitor visitation rate and length of time animals spent at each feeder. For the first two weeks of the study, cameras were set to record a 30 second video along with the initial photograph upon activation by an animal. For the second two week period only still photographs were used. For each photograph or video record the sex and estimated age of each animal feeding was recorded. For the video portion of the study the length of each feeding bout by each animal was recorded. Sex and age classes of animals recorded were adult doe, fawn, yearling male, 2-3 year old male and males estimated =4 years old.
In addition to visitation rates determined by the cameras, amount of feed consumed by deer during each two week period was recorded. An identical amount of feed was placed in each feeder at the beginning of the study. Feed was added on an as needed basis to prevent feeders from becoming empty. At the end of the first two weeks, feed from each feeder was removed and weighed. The difference between the amount of feed placed in each feeder and the amount remaining at the end of the two week period was considered the amount of feed consumed by deer. The remaining feed was returned to the feeder of origin. Additional feed was added on an as needed basis to prevent the feeders from becoming empty for the next two week period when the feed was again removed and weighed. Amount of feed consumed was calculated as above. A small amount of feed was spilled on the ground by deer and may have been consumed by non-target animals such as raccoons, squirrels or birds. We assumed an equal amount of spillage for each feed. We had no photographic record of any animals other than deer feeding directly from any feeder.
Video | Introduction | Methods | Results | Conclusions
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