Bachelor of Science
School or Department
Wildlife Biology – Terrestrial
Faculty Mentor Department
Mark Hebblewhite, Erim Gómez, Paul Lukacs
diel activity patterns, predator-prey dynamics, camera traps
Behavior and Ethology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology
Predator-prey dynamics shape diel activity patterns of large mammals. The avoidance of predation risk by prey in both space and time can affect predator-prey overlap and reduce risk of mortality. Here, I examined if rifle hunting affected the diel activity patterns of ungulates and their primary predator, pumas, in Lubrecht Experimental Forest, Montana. I deployed 30 infrared wildlife remote cameras across 29 sites using a stratified random design over three months before, during, and after the Fall 2022 Montana rifle hunting season. This project was also part of the Snapshot USA 2022 initiative. Using timestamps from these photos, daily activity patterns were tracked for ungulates, humans, and pumas. Over 41,000 images were classified using artificial intelligence classification software through Wildlife Insights. Because white-tailed deer comprised 83% of the photo captures of ungulates, I focused on white-tailed deer and human hunting. I also tested the consequences of avoiding human hunting for deer-puma overlap to see if mutual avoidance could increase overlap of predator and prey species. I compared peak periods of white-tailed deer activity pre, during, and post rifle season using the R package overlap. Under the predation risk hypothesis, I predicted deer should show a significant shift in time of peak activity during hunting season when compared to before and after hunting season, especially for more heavily hunted males. However, white-tailed deer females only reduced their overlap with human hunters in a slightly statistically significant way (14% reduction in overlap). Furthermore, the more heavily hunted male white-tailed deer reduced their overlap with humans during the hunting season by less than half the responseof females (7% reduction in overlap), rejecting the sex-based predation-risk hypothesis. Under the alternative hypothesis, I predicted that ungulates should show consistent temporal avoidance of humans. However, the overlap between deer and humans was also relatively high across the study (Average = 60%). Despite weak evidence for deer avoidance of human hunters, I found that increased overlap of pumas and white-tailed deer could result from their mutual avoidance of humans. This study implies that deer did not seem to avoid human activity that strongly during the hunting season, but that avoidance of peak human activity hours could potentially increase overlap between deer and their dominant non-human predator, pumas.
Honors College Research Project
GLI Capstone Project
Parsons, Shawn M., "Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire: How Hunting Affects the Diel Activity Patterns of Ungulates in Lubrecht Experimental Forest" (2023). Undergraduate Theses, Professional Papers, and Capstone Artifacts. 428.
© Copyright 2023 Shawn M. Parsons