Suckling and Allosuckling in Captive Fallow Deer (Dama dama, Cervidae)


UMR CNRS 5558, Laboratoire de Biométrie, Génétique et Biologie des Populations, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, 69 622 Villeurbanne cedex, France


Suckling and allosuckling were studied in relation to the age and sex of fawns in a captive population of fallow deer (Dama dama) showing a high rate of allosuckling (73% of the suckling bouts). No difference occurred between the sexes in either the duration or frequency of suckling and allosuckling. The frequency of suckling bouts decreased rapidly during the first four weeks of life while the frequency of allosuckling bouts increased rapidly between the second and the third week and remained constant until the conclusion of the observations (11th week of life). Birth date affected allosuckling, with late-born fawns performing fewer and shorter allosuckling bouts. The lack of a negative relationship between suckling and allosuckling frequencies failed to confirm the hypothesis that allosuckling allows fawns to complete their milk requirements on foster mothers. Both inbreeding and crowding could explain the absence of particular relationship between fawns and foster mothers.