Georgia Wildlife Resources Division
2070 U.S. Hwy. 278, SE, Social Circle, GA 30025
By: John W. Bowers and Daniel Forster
In 1992, a long-term study was initiated to validate the technique of estimating white-tailed deer age using tooth wear and replacement from known-aged deer. To this end, up to 16 buck fawns were obtained annually from permitted deer rehabilitators in Georgia for release into a closed and hunted population on Ossabaw Island, Georgia. Buck fawns were vasectomized to avoid genetic pollution, tagged with Monel ear and Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags, and released (hard-release) at 12-16 weeks of age. Suitability for release was determined by the rehabilitator and varied among individuals. From 1992-1994, forty-three (43) buck fawns were released with 8 being harvested within three months post-release, only one was recovered in the harvest at >1 year-old. To further evaluate short-term survival, 10 of 17 fawns were fitted with break-away radio collars equipped with a mortality switch in 1995. Signals were monitored once per week for mortality until the collar was recovered. Sixty percent (n=10) of radio-collared deer died within 3 weeks and 1 at 8 weeks post-release. Three fawns survived a minimum of 3 months post-release although one was legally harvested that same year. To date, a total of 60 fawns have been hard-released with only 2 being recovered as yearlings and none older than 1.5 years of age. These results indicate that rehabilitated buck fawns exhibit low survival under hard-release conditions into unfamiliar coastal environments.
Presented at the 25th Annual Meeting of the Southeast Deer Study Group, February 17-20, 2002, Mobile, AL.