Physiological and morphological indices are useful for determining condition of Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer; hereafter deer) and are important for deer management. However, information about deer condition in nutrient-deficient habitat types is sparse. Pocosins have a low nutritional plane and are characterized by deep, acidic, peat soils with a dense shrub layer that provides little or no hard and soft mast. In July 2008 and March 2009, we collected a total of 60 female deer (30 from each period) from a 31,565-ha pocosin forest managed intensively for Pinus taeda (Loblolly Pine) in coastal North Carolina. We recorded whole weight, eviscerated weight, spleen and adrenal gland weights, and kidney fat index (KFI). Abomasal parasite counts (APC) and femur marrow fat index (MFI) were determined post-collection in the laboratory, and blood samples were analyzed for packed cell volume and standard serum chemistries. Serum chemistries were within expected ranges, with the exception of elevated potassium concentrations. The KFI and MFI were within levels reported in the literature, and APC levels did not indicate heavy parasite loads. Spleen (t58 = 0.69, P = 0.492) and adrenal gland weights (t58 = 1.46, P = 0.151) were similar between periods. Our results provide baseline physiological data for deer in a nutrient-deficient habitat type. Though managers need to consider nutritional plane of particular habitat types, our results indicate that deer can achieve normal body weights and maintain body condition in nutrient-deficient sites.
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Vol. 12 • No. 2