Abstract

Title:  Evaluation of Selective Harvest on the Distribution Male Mating Success in White-tailed deer
Author(s): Masahiro Ohnishi - Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University- Kingsville; Randy W. DeYoung - Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville; Charles A. DeYoung - Department of Animal, Rangeland, and Wildlife Sciences, Texas A&M University-Kingsville; Bronson Strickland - Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture, Mississippi State University; Don A. Draeger - Comanche Ranch; David G. Hewitt - Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville
Year: 2016
Abstract: Selective harvest, or culling, is a widely practiced strategy aimed at increasing antler size in managed populations of cervids. However, the effects of culling on deer populations are poorly documented. Culling based on age and antler size of male deer may change population sex ratio and age structure. As a result, culling practices may affect the distribution of male mating success, and ultimately genetic variation. The goal of this study was to define effects of culling on the demographic traits and distribution of male mating success in white-tailed deer from southern Texas, USA. We established 3 study areas, 1 subject to intensive culling (3,460 acres), 1 to moderate culling (17,800 acres), and 1 as a control (4,942 acres). Each autumn during 2006-2014, we captured deer using the helicopter net-gun method. We estimated age, measured antler characteristics, and collected a tissue biopsy for genetic analyses. Deer that did not meet culling criteria for their age class were sacrificed during 2006-2012. We recorded 4,264 captures of 2,503 individual deer. The culling treatments in the intensive and moderate treatments altered the sex ratio (1M:5F, 1M:1.5F, respectively) and age structure. Parentage analyses indicated that most offspring were sired by adult males (= 3.5 years old) regardless of treatment. Young males sired few offspring, even when sex ratio and age structure were skewed in their favor. The resulting information from this study will help understand population response to selective harvest and should have important implications for harvest management strategies that involve selective harvest based on age or antler traits.

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