DeerUnit: Delimiting functional management units for partially migratory deer populations.

Red deer male in Jølster with new collar.

About the project

A global challenge for the management of large mammals is seasonal migration. The current management units are typically too small to capture the entire migration cycle. The fall migration period coincides with the hunting season and involves extensive movement over management units. We aim to demarcate functional population units based on data on the full migration cycle of >300 GPS marked red deer (2005-2013), and assess how they may change under global warming.

WP1 The ecology of migration

We aim to

  • quantify the link between timing of migration, snow depth and in turn the chances for being harvested in summer or winter ranges, now and in the future.
  • quantify a landscape level functional classification of seasonal habitat suitability for red deer, and simulate if the current range contraction from summer to winter (due to snow fall) are likely to persist under global warming.
  • understand selection of winter range, and explore the feasibility of using "energy landscapes" and "least cost paths" as basis for quantification of the functional connectivity among seasonal ranges.

WP2 Functional population units

We will scale up space use using tools to quantify connectivity among seasonal ranges and its "drainage of individuals" from a high elevation summer range to a low elevation winter range.

WP3 Management implementation

We aim to validate the ongoing process of management unit demarcation based on local knowledge, suggesting more robust units. We draw on research on governance from the Deer Management Groups in Scotland and do research on collaboration constraints among landowners.

The project is novel as we raise questions in the forefront on research of drivers of migration and how that affects distribution of the harvest. Also, a novel, generally applicable approach is our unique ideas of how to synthesize space use data using drainage models to demarcate functional population units providing managers with powerful new tools.


This project is funded by The Research Council of Norway (program Miljø 2015) and Norwegian Environment Agency.


01.05.2014 - 15.04.2018.

Tags: red deer, management, Migration
Published June 4, 2014 12:29 PM - Last modified Feb. 2, 2021 10:19 AM
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