Title:  Effects of Deer Density and Supplemental Feed on Fawn Growth in South Texas
Author(s): Mark K. Richman, Charles A. DeYoung, Timothy E. Fulbright, David G. Hewitt, Texas A&M University; Don A. Draeger, Comanche Ranch
Year: 2006
Abstract: Supplemental feeding of deer (Odocoileus virginianus) has become a widespread practice in south Texas. Some managers advocate allowing deer density to increase in order to "force" deer to eat feed. Whereas many biologists are skeptical of this recommendation, there has been no research evaluation of the trade-offs between deer density and feed. Our objective is to examine the effects of density and supplemental feed on fawn growth. Six 81 - ha highfenced enclosures were established with the following density treatments on each of 2 replicate ranches: 2 with 8.1 haldeer, 2 with 3.2 haldeer, and 2 with 2.0 haldeer. Supplemental feed was provided in 1 enclosure of each density treatment. Fawns were sampled by a combination of drop net capture and harvesting. On 42 fawns we obtained mass, total body lengths, and femur: hindfoot length ratios. Fawn mass averaged 24.7, 29.0, and 30.9 kg in high, medium, and low density enclosures with feed, respectively, and 21.7, 19.7, and 25.3 kg without feed. Body lengths averaged 1 10.2, 1 13.4, and 1 28.9 cm in high-, medium-, and lowdensity enclosures with feed, respectively, and 98.4, 98.4, and 110.5 without feed. Fed enclosures showed no trends in femur: hindfoot ratios, averaging 0.76, 0.74, and 0.76 in high medium, and low-density treatments, respectively. Femur: hindfoot length ratios were 0.68, 0.71, and 0.78 in high-, medium-, and low-density enclosures without feed. We are in the 2nd year of a 5-year study and management recommendations would be premature. However, it appears that both density and supplemental feed are affecting fawn growth in our experiment.

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