Does small-perimeter fencing inhibit mule deer or pronghorn use of water developments?

Journal of Wildlife Management
By: , and 



Wildlife water development can be an important habitat management strategy in western North America for many species, including both pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus). In many areas, water developments are fenced (often with small-perimeter fencing) to exclude domestic livestock and feral horses. Small-perimeter exclosures could limit wild ungulate use of fenced water sources, as exclosures present a barrier pronghorn and mule deer must negotiate to gain access to fenced drinking water. To evaluate the hypothesis that exclosures limit wild ungulate access to water sources, we compared use (photo counts) of fenced versus unfenced water sources for both pronghorn and mule deer between June and October 2002–2008 in western Utah. We used model selection to identify an adequate distribution and best approximating model. We selected a zero-inflated negative binomial distribution for both pronghorn and mule deer photo counts. Both pronghorn and mule deer photo counts were positively associated with sampling time and average daily maximum temperature in top models. A fence effect was present in top models for both pronghorn and mule deer, but mule deer response to small-perimeter fencing was much more pronounced than pronghorn response. For mule deer, we estimated that presence of a fence around water developments reduced photo counts by a factor of 0.25. We suggest eliminating fencing of water developments whenever possible or fencing a big enough area around water sources to avoid inhibiting mule deer. More generally, our results provide additional evidence that water development design and placement influence wildlife use. Failure to account for species-specific preferences will limit effectiveness of management actions and could compromise research results.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Does small-perimeter fencing inhibit mule deer or pronghorn use of water developments?
Series title Journal of Wildlife Management
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.163
Volume 75
Issue 6
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher The Wildlife Society
Contributing office(s) Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Description 9 p.
First page 1417
Last page 1425
Country United States
State Utah
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