A Quantitative Evaluation of the Severinghaus Technique for Estimating Age of White-tailed Deer

Subjectivity of tooth wear and replacement (i.e., Severinghaus technique) for estimating ages of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is sometimes questioned. To further quantify Severinghaus's description of tooth wear, we used digital photographs and computer-assisted technologies to measure dentine and enamel widths on molars of 67 wild, known-aged deer from South Carolina. Accurate measurements of dentine: enamel ratios did not clearly separate 2.5, 3.5, and 4.5-year-old deer because of excessive variability within age classes. Therefore, we used K-nearest neighbor [KNN] analysis to assign deer to age classes based on an overall dentine: enamel ratio. We correctly classified about 54% of deer tested. Based on our results and previous studies, we believed little accuracy in age estimates is gained by measuring dentine and enamel widths. In addition, we believed KNN has value for separating deer into discrete age classes, if less variable tooth or body characteristics are identified.

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