HOME RANGE: We’ve known enough local hunters to know the movement of deer is important to finding a spot to perch and wait for prey.
One Penn State University researcher recently studied the home range habits of Pennsylvania deer.
“In the big woods of Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier, the home range of the average white-tailed deer is more than twice as large as that of a deer in urban or agricultural areas of the state,” the university reported in a press release.
University researcher Duane Diefenbach “documented that phenomenon early on in his work, but it did not occur to him it might be representative of many different mammal species around the globe.”
An adjunct professor of wildlife ecology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, Duane was invited by German researchers to contribute to a worldwide study of mammal movement. For his part, he examined the movement of dozens of deer over a five-year period.
His research showed that the home range of Pennsylvania male and female outside of breeding season is about one square mile in wooded area. However, the range is between a third and a half of a square mile in agricultural areas.
Duane gave a couple of reasons for the difference.
One, deer do not have to travel as far to find a variety of plants to eat in an agricultural area. Two, agricultural areas tend to have better soil — and better crops.
“It turns out that Diefenbach’s observations in Pennsylvania are identical to what wildlife researchers around the world have seen with other species,” the release stated. “On average, mammals move distances two or three times shorter in human-modified landscapes than they do in the wild.”
Researchers say the discrepancy in home ranges “may have far-reaching consequences for ecosystems and in turn, for society.”
Their findings from the study appeared Friday in the journal “Science.”
PHIL: Deer won’t be the animal holding everyone’s attention today: Punxsutawney Phil is set to come take the stage this morning and give us the mid-winter prediction on when the spring weather will break.