Abstract

Title:  Factors Influencing Reproductive Success of Male White-Tailed Deer
Author(s): Peter K. Acker, Stephen S. Ditchkoff, Chad H. Newbolt, Todd D. Steury, Timothy J. Neuman -Auburn University
Year: 2013
Abstract: White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) herds have a social order of male dominance, which are theorized to be associated with reproductive success, and tradition holds that more dominant males are more successful breeders. However, recent research has begun to shed light on the fact that younger, smaller, subdominant males also participate in breeding to a greater degree than was originally believed. Through genetic herd reconstruction, we examined factors that influenced reproduction in a white-tailed deer herd enclosed in a 430-acre high fence research facility. Between August 2007 and September 2012, we captured a total of 190 individual deer and used microsatellite analysis to assign paternities. We assigned 89 paternities at the 95% confidence level and an additional 30 at 80% confidence with program CERVUS. Using a Poisson regression model, we found that antler size, antler characteristics, and body size characteristics were all associated positively with male breeding success; however, certain body measurements proved to be better predictors of breeding success than the other factors tested. We also found that impact of age on male breeding success was a factor of male age structure, where the relative importance of an increase in sire age decreased as male age structure increased. These data illustrate a multitude of variables that can influence male breeding success, and broaden our comprehension of the species' reproductive ecology.

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