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Evaluation of winter food quality and its variability for red deer in forest environment: overwintering enclosures vs. free-ranging areas


Populations of European ungulates have grown substantially over recent decades, resulting in considerable environmental and socio-economic impacts. Availability and quality of natural and supplemental food sources are among the main factors driving their population dynamics. Detailed knowledge of food quality of management-targeted species is therefore of primary importance for their successful management. The main aim of this study was to evaluate winter food quality and its variability for an important ungulate species in the Czech Republic - i.e. red deer, using faecal indices (faecal nitrogen, faecal acid detergent fibre, faecal neutral detergent fibre) and near infrared reflectance spectroscopy. We compared food quality for red deer and its possible differences between overwintering enclosures (i.e. fenced areas where red deer spend harsh winter conditions) and neighbouring unfenced free-ranging areas within two study areas. The results obtained showed that winter food quality and its variability for red deer are of different quality and variability in the overwintering enclosure and neighbouring free-ranging area. The observed differences in concentrations and amounts of variation of faecal indices are most probably related to animal densities at individual study areas. Wildlife managers should therefore keep animals in overwintering enclosures at moderate densities and to provide high quality forage to all individuals in order to balance nutrition of both the individuals inside and outside the enclosures. Nevertheless, further studies are needed in order to provide deeper knowledge on red deer food quality and its variability in space and time.

Calendario de la edición:
4 veces al año
Temas de la revista:
Life Sciences, Plant Science, Ecology, other