Relationship of Mast, Ovarian Activity, Recruitment and Deer Condition in Northeast Georgia

We collected reproductive tracts from female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) along with mast indices, deer condition data, and population parameters for a 20-year period in northeastern Georgia. The objectives were to determine what factors influenced reproduction and if ovulation incidence or mast abundance could be used to predict recruitment rate the following year. Percentage of does bred before 1 December and adult doe ovulation incidence were both associated with mast abundance. Higher ovulation incidence of adult does coincided with early breeding. Recruitment rate was not correlated with mast supply, ovulation incidence, or late breeding of any doe age classes from the previous year. The only real value of ovarian analyses was the identification of late breeding in years of acorn scarcity, which also coincided with poorer condition and reproductive effort. Because late breeding can be predicted by mast scarcity, ovarian analysis data is non-essential compared to condition and mast data. Although not significant on an annual basis, ovulation incidence averaged 27% higher than the corresponding recruitment rate for the 20-year period. How much of this difference represents fetal or fawn mortality, hunter selection, or other factors was not clear.

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