Population performance and feeding ecology of roe deer in farm woodland
This thesis investigates and compares the population performance and diet of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) inhabiting farm woodland and large commercial forestry plantations in North East Scotland, and investigates roe deer use of agricultural fields surrounding farm woodland. Feeding damage by roe deer to cereal fields and conifers was considered, along with the potential of Wolf (Canis lupus), Bear (Ursus arctos), and Lynx (Lynx lynx) odours as roe deer feeding repellents. There was found to be no significant difference in the reproductive performance between farm woodland and forestry plantation habitats. No difference was found between habitats, in the number of ovulations (Corpora lutea present), pregnancy rates (embryos present), and number of kids present per doe. Reproductive performance was found to be related to maternal body weight, and no significant difference was found in either the body weights, or body condition, between habitats. It was concluded that farm woodland and forestry plantation habitats are of similar quality for roe deer, and that new farm woodland is likely to be rapidly colonised by roe deer dispersing from farm woodland or forestry plantation habitats. Rumen and faecal analysis, however, indicated that the diet of roe deer inhabiting farm woodland differed from roe deer inhabiting forestry plantations. The forestry diet was similar to that found by previous British studies, and was characterised by forbs, heaths, and few graminoids. In contrast roe deer occupying farm woodland predominantly ate agricultural cereals, with few forbs and heaths. Cereals were the single most important component of the farm woodland diet, and formed 36.8% over summer, and up to 68.8% over winter, of the volume of the rumen contents. Conifers were eaten in similar proportions in both habitats, contributing up to 4% over the summer, and up to 12% over the winter, of the volume of the rumen contents.