Whitetail Science: Young Bucks Breed 30% Of Does

deer breeding in febFor many years biologists and hunters believed that most adult does were bred by bucks 3.5 years and older, a theory I always questioned. In many areas of the U.S., deer herds are overloaded with does, and there are relatively mature bucks 4.5 years and older.

So in peak rut, when many does come into estrus at one time, which bucks are actually doing the breeding?

According to research published in the Journal of Mammalogy, immature bucks (1.5 and 2.5 years of age) are breeding does at a much higher rate than once thought. In one study, researchers analyzed the DNA samples of more than 1,200 whitetails in 3 different populations (Mississippi, Texas and Oklahoma) and found that young bucks sired 30 to 33% of the fawns.

This seems to prove my personal and totally unscientific theory, but one I think makes a lot of common sense: On public and private lands that are not managed and which do not have a large population of 3.5 to 5.5 year old bucks, the 1.5 and 2.5 year olds MUST be doing a lot of breeding. I’d bet it’s more than 33 percent in some areas.

But here’s an interesting finding. The DNA researchers found that even in a population with a good number of mature bucks, immature males still sired 30% or so of the fawns. So in layman’s terms, the old boys don’t suppress the randy youngsters with big rubs, snort-wheezing and their mere big-racked presence as much as we once thought.

Upon analyzing these studies, one whitetail biologist said, “This genetic research crushes our thinking on how whitetails do their breeding. What amazes me most is that we really believed for the longest time that there were a few dominant bucks that did most of the breeding.”

Cool stuff. I feel sort of vindicated.

Future Of Deer Hunting: USDA TO Revise Standards for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

cwd map

As I’ve said on the Blog and on BIG DEER TV, CWD is the biggest issue and threat that we’ve faced in the last 50 years, and maybe ever. We need to stay on top of this and learn all we can about this disease.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is currently revising their standards for CWD, and they need to hear from deer hunters from across the country. To that end, TRCP put out this message which I wholeheartedly agree with and support:

Deer hunting is the single most popular form of hunting in the United States, with 9.2 million Americans participating each year, contributing more than $20 billion in economic activity, state and local taxes, and wildlife restoration trust fund excise taxes. Deer hunters play an essential role in the “user pays, public benefits” framework of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Reductions in deer hunting and the number of deer hunters have reverberating impacts that extend far beyond deer and deer hunting directly, including state fish and wildlife agency budgets and their broader fish and wildlife management work, and rural economic health.

Deer populations represent one of the great success stories of American wildlife conservation, and deer hunters have led the way; but the continued spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) across the country represents a stark threat to the future of deer populations, deer hunting, and more broadly, the public’s wildlife resources. Once again, hunters stand ready to take the steps necessary to address this worrisome issue, but we cannot do it alone. Significant progress must also be made by the deer farming industry.

As the lead federal agency tasked with slowing and ultimately ending the further spread of CWD, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) must take proactive and meaningful steps, including:

1. Reducing the spread of CWD to levels low enough that new cases are extremely rare.
2. Including all effective disease control options, to include improved fencing for deer farms and stronger requirements for disease monitoring, surveillance, and decontamination.
3. Covering all native and farmed deer species in North America.
4. Requiring mandatory testing of all dead animals from captive herds.
5. Eliminating the movement of CWD-infected deer from all sources.
6. Recommending a third-party review of the APHIS Herd Certification and Interstate Movement program and Program Standards due to continued detection of CWD in herds monitored beyond five years, largely due to flaws with the program.

TRCP encourages all of us to take action and weigh in on the CWD threat. Fill out the form found here to send a letter to decision makers at the USDA APHIS.

Minn: Rare Two-Headed Fawn

minn 2 headed fawnFrom Fox News: A mushroom hunter’s discovery of a conjoined white-tailed fawn in a Minnesota forest two years ago is being hailed by researchers as a landmark case among oddities in nature.

The fawns, which were stillborn, are believed to have been the first recorded case of a conjoined two-headed deer to have reached full term and born by their mother, according to a study recently published in the science journal American Midland Naturalist.

“It’s never been described before,” Lou Cornicelli, co-author of the study and a wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told FOX9. “There are a few reported cases of two-headed ungulate fetuses, but nothing delivered to term. So, the uniqueness made it special.”

Laboratory tests and scans performed on the carcass, which had been preserved and frozen for study, revealed the fawns had two head-neck regions joined along the spine. The fur, heads, and legs were normal, but the animals had a shared liver, extra spleens, and gastrointestinal tracts. Scientists said that with that anatomy they could never have survived.

Another example of how amazing and awesome nature is: The mushroom hunter found the two-headed fawn just hours after it/they were stillborn. As you can clearly see in the picture, they were in a serene and natural state and groomed, indicating the mother doe had tried to care for them after delivery.

Spring: Deer Antler Growth Cycle

Microsoft PowerPoint - Antler Growth Cycle Figure.pptx

 

 

 

 

 

This graphic from the Mississippi State Deer Lab shows the entire antler growth cycle…here we focus on spring growth, what is happening right now:

New antler growth resumes about 3 weeks after (old) antler drop, on a scab that has formed over the pedicles. A growing antler is covered with velvet and grows from the tip. Antler growth is slow during April-May and becomes more rapid during June-July, especially in older bucks.

Weird: When Legs Grow Out A Deer’s Body!

legs grow deer bodyA guy emailed this picture of a deer with legs growing and flopping out its back. Don’t know when or where it was shot. I’ve seen it before, so it was a few years ago.

Photoshop? Looks legit to me.

From the scant research I could find on this type of genetic abnormality, scientists say on the very rare occasion when legs grow out of a deer’s body, they were likely those of a twin that didn’t form all the way.

According to this QDMA post this is most likely a case of a “parasitic twin.” Twin fawns probably began to develop inside a doe, but the twin embryos did not completely separate and one of them stopped developing normally. The legs on this buck’s back may actually be non-functioning remnants of the twin that failed to develop fully, but that remained attached to the healthy embryo.

Parasitic twins are rare but have been documented in many animal species and even in humans.