Why didn’t the doe cross the pipeline?

Harrisburg — Game commissioners handled a wide range of important business at their recent meeting here, and yet the most memorable episode did not require their action.

It came during the report presented by the agency’s chief deer biologist Chris Rosenberry, who among other topics, summarized ongoing deer research efforts.

“Last year, we conducted field studies in three areas of Pennsylvania,” he said.

“We continued our second year of a three-year study on deer survival and mortality in Wildlife Management Unit 5C and we started the Deer-Forest Study on the Bald Eagle, Rothrock and Susquehannock state forests.”

In both studies, radio-collared and ear-tagged deer provide important survival and movement information, Rosenberry noted.

These animals are captured, marked with radio-collars and ear tags, and then released at the capture site.

“Throughout the life of the deer or collar, we can track their movements and survival,” he explained. 

It was the example of a GPS-   collared doe he offered that had folks talking afterward.

He showed commissioners a slide exhibiting more than 2,600 data points, clearly delineating the deer’s territory.

“This slide provides an example of the movements of an adult female on one of our state forest study areas,” Rosenberry said.

“The boundaries of this deer’s home range are interesting for a number of reasons. There appears to be a distinct clumping of locations along the southern and western boundaries.

The reasons for these boundaries makes more sense when we look at a topo map, Rosenberry pointed out.

First, looking at the southern boundary, one notices that it tends to follow a road. “This is not completely unexpected, as we have seen roads influencing deer home ranges in past studies,” he said.

But the western boundary, where there are no obvious terrain features or roads that would explain a sharp, linear boundary for the doe was unexpected. That is until one notices a faint dashed line, that runs north to south.

It is a buried pipeline.

“I am sure most of us would never think a pipeline would be such a significant factor for deer movements, Rosenberry said. “But, in this case, this deer rarely crossed into the woods on the other side of the pipeline.”

For Game Commission deer biologists, it is just another example of the interesting things they see when they put a GPS unit on a deer and follow its movements.

“That’s one of the advantages of radio-collared deer in that we can collect a lot of data and change the frequencies in which the data is collected  and create a large data set,” Rosenberry said.

“I don’t know that too many folks would have guessed offhand that the pipeline would have had that much impact on a deer in a forested environment.”

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