Department of Environmental Studies
Little documentation exists about the utilization of vernal pool habitats by mammals, particularly by large mammal species such as carnivores and ungulates. For example, although vernal pools support herbaceous browse preferred by white-tailed deer and moose, preferential use of Northeastern vernal pools by these species has not been documented. To evaluate whether these large herbivores preferentially visit vernal pools, we quantified white-tailed deer and moose pellet groups in vernal pools, control plots, and their upland buffers in Pisgah State Forest, southern New Hampshire, USA. Significantly more deer and moose pellet groups were observed in buffers around vernal pools than in buffers around control plots (x2 = 5.27, P = 0.022; x2 = 20.95, P = <0.0001, respectively). Significantly more deer and moose pellet groups were observed within buffers around vernal pools with high vegetation biomass than within buffers around vernal pools with low vegetation biomass (x2 = 27.18, P = <0.0001). If the differences in pellet group counts represent actual differences in habitat use, the results suggest deer and moose may utilize northeastern vernal pool habitats preferentially when compared to surrounding upland forest habitat. A weak association between scat pellet group deposition and vegetation biomass was established but should be interpreted cautiously given our qualitative vegetation assessment methods.