Ecotones as a measure of deer habitat quality in central Ontario.
The importance of ecotonal or edge environments to white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) was assessed by pellet group counts. Edge and non-edge habitats were characterized by using cluster analysis. The latter were relatively homogeneous units dominated by Acer saccharum in the upland sites and Abies balsamea in the lowland areas. Edge areas had significantly more vegetative species. Deer densities were highest at 2 sites close to a traditional wintering area and pellet group counts were significantly higher for edge vs. non-edge samples at these sites. The data suggest that deer habitat can be evaluated using a quantifiable measure of edge as a habitat variable. The use of edge by deer may be more pronounced in areas with higher deer densities. The scale for resolution of habitat quality based on edge should probably be based on a 10-km2 grid as opposed to the 1-km2 grid used in this study.