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11 November 2022 Translocating captive female white-tailed deer
Jace R. Elliott, Chad H. Newbolt, William D. Gulsby, Stephen S. Ditchkoff
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Context. Thousands of captive white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) breeding facilities exist across North America for the purpose of producing trophy-class deer (i.e. exceptionally large-antlered). Many of these deer get marketed to private landowners, with the expectation that introduced deer will enhance genetics in the population, resulting in larger-antlered male deer. Previous research suggests that survival and reproductive success of translocated wild white-tailed deer are highly variable; however, little is known about the fate of white-tailed deer translocated from captive-breeding operations.

Aims. To assess the efficacy of translocating captive female white-tailed deer for the purpose of increasing average antler size within a high-fence property.

Methods We translocated 24 adult female deer into a private, 300-ha high-fence shooting preserve in east-central Alabama over a 3-year period. We monitored survival, reproductive success, and fawn recruitment for the translocated deer by using VHF radio collars and vaginal-implant transmitters (VITs).

Key results. We found a 12-month survival rate of 0.54 for translocated deer. We captured nine fawns throughout our study, leading to a rate of 0.9 fawns per VIT, after accounting for doe mortality and premature VIT expulsion. We found 60-day and 6-month fawn survival rates of 0.33 and 0.22 respectively.

Conclusions. Survival of translocated captive deer was comparable to rates reported in previous studies that translocated wild deer, although lower than what is found in wild populations that undergo no translocation. Translocated does produced a low number of fawns relative to the national average, although fawn recruitment was within the range of survival rates reported in studies of wild deer.

Implications. We believe our findings provide a baseline of expectations for captive-deer translocations. Given our results, we believe it is infeasible to expect increased average antler size within this study site by translocating adult female white-tailed deer.

© 2023 The Author(s) (or their employer(s)). Published by CSIRO Publishing
Jace R. Elliott, Chad H. Newbolt, William D. Gulsby, and Stephen S. Ditchkoff "Translocating captive female white-tailed deer," Wildlife Research 50(2), 108-119, (11 November 2022).
Received: 25 February 2022; Accepted: 3 October 2022; Published: 11 November 2022
captive breeding
fawn recruitment
Odocoileus virginianus
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