Utilizing Cast Antlers for Profiling Quality and Annual Repeatability of Antler Characteristics in a Nutritionally Stable Environment for White-tailed Deer
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
DepartmentForestry and Wildlife Science
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Antlers are often used as indicators of management effectiveness in deer populations, and increasing antler size is frequently a management objective. Thus, managers are interested in assessing antler characteristics and annual variation in antler size in individuals within the population. Shed antlers present an annually regenerated, non-invasive data source for antler characteristics from deer populations. We assessed whether shed antlers were representative of the antler characteristics of the male segment of a white-tailed deer population (Odocoileus virginanus). We found that detected shed antlers over represented larger antlered, older males, and thus may not be representative of a deer population’s antler characteristics. Additionally, annual repeatability of antler characteristics was variable, and the repeatability of several antler traits differed between our study populations. This may suggest differences in investment of antler characteristics in response to differing pressures of competing males and potential mates.