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Deer populations hurt by poaching in Mexican dry forest

White-tailed deer are usually thought of as inhabiting temperate forests in the U.S. and Canada, but this widespread species can also be found across tropical forests, from Mexico to Peru. A new study in’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science investigates the population of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Mexico’s Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve (TCBR), and finds that poaching may be having a large impact.

“Little information exists regarding the effects of human pressure on deer population densities. This pressure occurs mainly in ecosystems that are undergoing serious fragmentation, such as the tropical dry forest,” the study’s authors write.

Counting deer pellets, the researchers found that deer abundance ranged from 0.1 to 2.9 deer every square kilometer, making the species more rare than expected. The low density could possibly be explained by human impacts.

“These wild populations are currently under anthropogenic pressures such as […] habitat loss, competition with cattle for food and space, and poaching, which is one of the most important causes of wild fauna decline,” the authors write, noting that hunting may have an adverse impact on the populations given the difficulty of survival in dry forests.

The researchers suggest setting up Management Units for the Conservation of Wildlife (UMA) under Mexican law for the sustainable management of white-tailed deer populations by locals in the region. In addition, the authors recommend better management of cattle-ranching in the area to mitigate its impact on wildlife.

CITATION: Ramos-Robles, M.., Gallina, S. and Mandujano, S., C. 2013. Habitat and human factors associated with white-tailed deer density in the tropical dry forest of Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 6(1):70-86.

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