Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2024

Document Type



College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program


Degree Name

Master of Science

Thesis Advisor

Dr. Salvatore Blair, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dr. Kristi Westover, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dr. Kiyoshi Sasaki, Ph.D.


White-tailed Deer, Population Demographics, Camera Traps, Cortisol, Fecal Cortisol, Urbanization and Stress, Fecal Metabolites, Fecal ELISA Testing


Population demographics and density studies are a common way of determining number of individuals in location. Understanding how many individuals and sex ratios can help estimate total populations for future potential management practices. For white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), commonly referred to as whitetail deer, like other cervids, having too many or too few individuals in an area can cause issues. Some of the issues that may arise with too many individuals include higher disease potential, and a general lack of resources leading to an increase in competition. As areas that were once habitat for whitetail deer become more and more urbanized, knowing how urbanization affects populations will be vital to co-existing with the species. Measurement of cortisol levels are common way to assess stress levels of animals. By comparing the stress levels in rural and suburban areas during different times of the year we can determine if urbanization influences the levels of stress that the deer are under. By testing fecal cortisol, there is no additional stress to the individual deer. Pooling the samples at each location and time frame will give an idea of what the stress levels of the population in each location are rather than measuring individual stress levels. The suburban area (Winthrop Woods) had 1.52 acres per deer and the rural site (Southern 8ths Farm) had 14.15 acres per deer. The cortisol testing showed no statistically significant differences between site and time locations with a 2-way ANOVA analysis. There was a trend of higher levels of cortisol in suburban, pre-rut populations, but the trend was not statistically significant. The fact that there was no difference could be due to a smaller sample size and could potentially be retested over a larger period and with more testing locations to confirm that trend. As urbanization becomes more prevalent, understanding the effects of urbanization on populations will be vital to the co-existence between whitetail deer and humans.


I would like to thank Dr. Blair for his help with this project. I know some of this material was out of his comfort zone but his willingness to adapt to help with this project made everything go as smooth as possible. I would also like to thank Dr. Westover for her help in editing grant proposals and in research on the topic. I would like to thank all of my advisors, Dr. Blair, Dr. Westover, and Dr. Sasaki for providing valuable insight on research locations and procedures that made this project possible. I would also like to thank the Winthrop Research Council and Southern 8ths Farm (Carolina Wildlands Foundation) for helping fund the project. Without their help, none of this project would have been possible. Lastly, I would like to thank all of the sites that were willing to allow me to come and do my collections and all of the people who assisted and walked through the woods helping me collect all of the samples.