Survival and Cause-Specific Mortality of Mature Male White-Tailed Deer

Authors

  • STEPHEN L. WEBB,

    Corresponding author
    1. Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, TX 78363, USA
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    • Mississippi State University, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Box 9690, Mississippi State, MS 39762-9690, USA

  • DAVID G. HEWITT,

    1. Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, TX 78363, USA
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  • MICKEY W. HELLICKSON

    1. King Ranch, Inc., P.O. Box 1090, Kingsville, TX 78364, USA
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E-mail: stephenwebb@hotmail.com

Abstract

ABSTRACT Understanding sources of male deer mortality is a prerequisite to a successful management program, especially in Texas, USA, where white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are the most economically important game species. South Texas, USA, is one of the few areas where males reach older age classes (> 4.5 yr), in part because of intense population management. Therefore, we obtained survival rates and causes of mortality of 48 mature male deer in south Texas, USA, over 2 years. We calculated Kaplan—Meier survival estimates during 2 study years modified for a staggered-entry design and annual survival rates for one cohort of deer from 1998 to 2004 using recapture and radiotelemetry data. We documented 21 mortalities (16 harvest and 5 nonhunting mortalities). Average annual survival of the known-aged 1998 cohort was 82% with 52% of surviving to 6.5 years of age. Survival in study year 2 (0.497 ± 0.069) was less than in study year 1 (0.781 ± 0.073; P = 0.0047), largely because males had finally reached harvestable age (> 6.5 yr old). All but one non-harvest mortality occurred during the rut or postrut periods. It appears that a large percentage of males can reach mature age classes under intense population management, making them available for harvest when at peak antler size. This allows for increased economic returns on intensively managed white-tailed deer populations.

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