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Keywords:

  • age-specific variation;
  • body mass;
  • environmental factors;
  • harvest;
  • lactation;
  • Mississippi;
  • Odocoileus virginianus;
  • white-tailed deer

Abstract

Animal density and stochastic environmental events affect physical development and recruitment of cervids. Biologists who manage cervid populations based on a density-dependent paradigm may need to also consider environmental effects. We analyzed 12- to 25-year time series of 3 harvested white-tailed deer populations in Mississippi to determine the relative influence of harvest and environmental factors on female reproduction and phenotypic quality. Using simple and multiple linear regression, we related body mass of 1.5-, 2.5-, and ≥3.5-year females, and 2.5- and ≥3.5-year percent lactation to variables representing deer harvest, growing season precipitation and temperatures, high-quality agronomic plantings, and flooding events. Response across populations varied greatly, with harvest variables explaining most, some, or no variation in body mass and percent lactation. Biologists should consider the potential influence of environmental factors on phenotypic and reproductive variation when making management decisions. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.