Abstract

Title:  Patterns of Antler Breakage in White-tailed Deer
Author(s): Gabriel R. Karns, Stephen S. Ditchkoff
Year: 2012
Abstract: Antlers contribute greatly to the life history and ecology of the species of the deer family (Cervidae). Breeding performance and behavior of males may be altered due to antler breakage. Though many species’ general pattern of antler breakage are not described, studies indicate that diet composition and quality, age, antler size, dominance rank, and demographic parameters (e.g., adult sex ratio, density) of the population may explain variation in antler breakage rates between individuals and subpopulations. Our objectives were to describe antler breakage patterns and evaluate the correlation of certain antler traits and precipitation with antler breakage rates. From 2001–2010, we collected 487 cast antlers of captive white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) managed at relatively high densities with a sex ratio skewed towards males. We took various measurements from each antler and used logistic regression (response variable: broken or unbroken) to evaluate relationships between antler characteristics, precipitation, and observed breakage patterns. Overall cast antler breakage rate was 30%. Beam circumference and total number of antler points had the greatest effect on an antler’s probability of breaking. No effect of seasonal precipitation was documented, but supplemental feed was available ad libitum. The main beam and G2 antler point were least susceptible to antler breakage. The study provides a general description of antler breakage in a white-tailed deer herd and reaffirms that antler breakage rates are likely a byproduct of individual characteristics and herd demographics.

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