Katherine Brackel

and 4 more

Understanding what variables affect ungulate neonate survival is imperative to successful conservation and management of the species. Predation is commonly cited as a cause-specific source of mortality and ecological covariates often influence neonate survival. However, variation in survival estimates related to capture methodology has been documented with opportunistically captured neonates generally displaying greater survival than those captured via aid of vaginal implant transmitters (VITs), likely because of increased left truncation observed in the opportunistically captured datasets. Our goal was to assess if 3- and 6-month survival estimates varied by capture method while simultaneously assessing if capture method affected model selection and interpretation of ecological covariates for white-tailed deer neonates captured from three study sites in North Dakota and South Dakota, USA. We found survival varied by capture method for 3-month neonate survival with opportunistically captured neonates displaying up to 26% greater survival than their counterparts captured via VITs; however, this relationship was not present for 6-month survival. We also found model selection and subsequent interpretation of ecological covariates varied when analyzing datasets comprised of neonates captured via VITs, neonates captured opportunistically, and all neonates combined regardless of capture method. When interpreting results from our VIT only analysis for 3-month survival, we found survival varied by three time intervals and was lowest in the first two weeks of life. Capture method did not affect 6-month survival which was most influenced by total precipitation occurring during 3 – 8 weeks of a neonate’s life and percent canopy cover found at a neonate’s capture site. Our results support previous research that capture method must be accounted for when deriving survival estimates for ungulate neonates as it can impact derived estimates and subsequent interpretation of results.