Reproductive Ecology of White-tailed Deer on the Welder Wildlife Foundation, Texas

Long-term reproductive, physiological, and population data are not commonly available for deer herds. In Texas, there is little data on populations that are not commercially hunted. Data were recorded from 943 white-tailed does (Odocoileus virginianus) collected from 1961-1992 on the Welder Wildlife Foundation. Age class, eviscerated carcass weight, kidney fat index, density, and rainfall were correlated with reproductive performance including birth dates, pregnancy rates, and counts of corpora lutea and embryos. Deer densities averaged 33/km2. Mean conception date was 22 November and 75% of the breeding occurred in November. Pregnancy rates for fawns, yearlings, and adult does were 5%, 90%, and 95%, respectively. Yearlings averaged 1.39 corpora lutea and 1.28 embryos. Adults averaged 1.83 corpora lutea and 1.68 embryos. Fetal sex ratio was 52% males. At relatively high densities deer continued to produce at a high rate and number of corpora lutea and embryos were density-dependent. Below average rainfall did not significantly affect pregnancy rates; However, number of embryos was reduced. Age, eviscerated carcass weight, and kidney fat index were positively correlated to number of embryos. Density was negatively correlated to eviscerated carcass weight, kidney fat index, and number of embryos.

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