The costs of parturition and lactation of female sika deer on Kinkazan Island (9.6 km2 in size), northern Japan, which live at a high density (about 50 deer/km2), were evaluated by comparison of body weights of 481 females measured during a 15 year study (1993–2008). Weight data were chosen from only females that did not give birth in the preceding year. The mean body weight of females that did not give birth (“yelds”) was significantly lower (P < 0.001) than that of females who gave birth (“milks”); yelds' body weight was 93.1% and 83.5% that of milks in the preceding and parturition years, respectively. The yelds increased in body weight by the following March by 8.2% (P < 0.001), whereas milks did not. Among the milks, those whose fawns survived until the following May (“rearing milks”) lost body weight by 14.9% (P < 0.001). Milks who lost fawns within a week after birth (“early fawn-less milks”) did not lose body weight (P = 0.583), while those whose fawns died after the first autumn but died before May (“late fawn-less milks”) lost body weight by 19.9% (P < 0.001). These results indicate that sika deer females do not enter estrus unless they are heavy enough, and that both parturition and rearing are costly for sika deer mothers living in high-density conditions.
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Vol. 29 • No. 3