Social Organization Among White-tailed Deer During Rut

Visual observations on group composition of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on the Fred T. Stimpson Wildlife Sanctuary, Alabama, were conducted from November 1975 through March 1976. Group composition was divided into 3 periods (pre-rut, 6 Nov - 6 Jan; rut, 7 Jan - 29 Feb; post-rut, March) to determine effects of reproductive behavior. During the study, 937 groups containing 2,391 deer were sighted. Sightings of single males and single females increased during the rut, and mean group size decreased. Data suggest a temporary dissociation of adult does from family groups as a result of reproductive activities. Based on observation of 2 radiotagged does the dissociation occurs primarily between adult deer or yearlings and not fawn-doe associations. The temporary dissociation of a doe from the family unit could facilitate breeding encounters without disrupting the movements and feeding activities of her social group.

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