Management strategies that incorporate the social behavior of wildlife may be more efficient in achieving population objectives. Our current knowledge of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) social behaviors may not be adequate for application to management. Using captive white-tailed deer, we investigated the long-held assumption that relatively few dominant males sire most offspring and, thus, prevent subordinates from breeding. Although this assumption influences population predictions and management strategies, empirical studies of the relationship between dominance and male breeding success in deer are lacking. We determined male dominance rank and genetic paternity through 6 breeding trials. Although dominant males sired most offspring, subordinates sired offspring in 5 of 6 trials and multiple paternity (siring of offspring by 2 males) occurred in ˜24% of compound litters. Further, male dominance ranks were not necessarily predictable or stable during the breeding season. This study indicates that the relationship between social dominance and male breeding success may be more complex than previously thought. Our findings also are consistent with recent studies of parentage in wild deer, providing additional evidence that social dominance does not necessarily equate to breeding success. Conceptual models of deer breeding behaviors should account for considerable individual heterogeneity among males in their ability to sire offspring.
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