Effects of Early Weaning on Survival and Growth of Captive White-tailed Deer

Thirty-seven white-tailed deer fawns (Odocoileus virginianus) born during summer and autumn 1993 were used to study effects of early weaning on survival and growth. Fawns at birth (date recorded) were weighed (kg), measured (cm), and tagged for identification. Fawns were randomly assigned to early weaned (treatment) or control groups at 60 days of age. Treatment animals were separated from their dams at this time, and control animals remained with their dams until 6 months of age. Both groups were fed a pelleted ration containing a medium protein level (11.6%). Study animals were sedated, weighed, and measured at 6,12, and 18 months of age. Number of points, inside width, main beam length, and main beam basal circumference of antlers was recorded at 18 months of age. Eleven animals died during the course of the study, but no deaths were treatment-related. No difference in weight or body measurements were detected between groups when animals were measured at 6, 12, or 18 months of age. No difference in number of points or antler characteristics were detected in males between groups at 18 months of age.

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