Boyce Lab

Kathryn Vaughan, M.SC.


Winter Severity Index

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and mule deer (O. hemionus) are integral to Alberta’s ecosystems and economy. However, the relationship between winter severity and hunting impacts on their populations is not well understood. Notably, Alberta lacks a comprehensive Winter Severity Index (WSI). Developing such an index is essential for understanding the trends in weather patterns and their effects on deer populations, providing insight for effective wildlife management strategies.

My research aims to bridge this knowledge gap by investigating the factors driving deer harvest fluctuations in Alberta. Specifically, we will develop a WSI tailored to Alberta’s diverse conditions, providing insights into winter severity’s impact on deer populations. Additionally, we will explore the potential Hydra Effect—a phenomenon where harvests stabilise populations through density dependence and harvest interaction—anticipating its presence in our data.

By integrating data from the Government of Alberta, Forestry and Parks, and satellite weather data, we will assess harvest density responses to the WSI and analyse the influence of varying hunting pressure on harvest. This research holds significant implications for wildlife management and conservation in Alberta, offering valuable insights into deer conservation strategies.

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