Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program:
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources


Deer Density Estimation and Habitat Use in Southeast Alaska

January 2023 - December 2024


Participating Agencies

Sitka black-tailed deer are an important game species in southeast Alaska, and are a critical driver of predator population dynamics in the region. On Prince of Wales Island, where habitat management for deer is a major land use, it is critical to understand where deer occur on the landscape and how they respond to timber harvest. Moreover, our understanding of how predators (e.g. wolves) shape deer distribution on the landscape could have important implications for harvest and habitat management.

By utilizing an existing/ongoing deployment of remote cameras across Prince of Wales Island for wolf monitoring, we will develop single-season and multi-species occupancy models for black-tailed deer that quantify occupancy rates across the landscape and how these rates are affected by both habitat conditions and by the presence of predators. Additionally, we hope to be able to relate deer distribution and occupancy to in-situ estimates of snow depth calculated from remote camera images. Lastly, we will evaluate the utility of this sampling framework for estimating deer density across the entire island.

Monitoring of game species is exceptionally challenging in southeast Alaska, and the potential for multi-species monitoring frameworks could provide a cost-effective mechanism for assisting with harvest and/or habitat management decisions. This study will build upon previous research that has demonstrated that deer respond to habitat management in terms of browsing pressure by also linking overall occupancy rates and interactions with predators to habitat conditions.