Leptin is a hormone that plays a key role in regulating energy intake, appetite, and metabolism. In some mammals, leptin has been shown to circulate at levels proportional to body fat, which could make it useful for nonlethal evaluation of body condition. Leptin's usefulness for estimating fat levels (i.e., body condition) of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is unknown. We quantified serum leptin concentrations in a sample of free-ranging, female deer collected in July 2008 and March 2009 from coastal North Carolina, USA. We compared leptin concentrations with kidney fat index, femur marrow fat index, and kidney fat mass. Additionally, we assessed differences in leptin concentrations between the two seasons, lactating and nonlactating females, and gestating and nongestating females. Leptin concentrations were similar between seasons but were lower in lactating and gestating females. We did not detect significant relationships between leptin and the body fat metrics, indicating that leptin may have limited value for estimating fat reserves in white-tailed deer.
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Vol. 50 • No. 4