Direct, practical means of assessing undernutrition in deer (Odocoileus spp.) and other ungulates during winter are needed in areas of research and management. We examined the relationship between mass loss and serum urea nitrogen (SUN) and urinary urea nitrogen:creatinine (U:C) in captive white-tailed deer (O. virginianus). During 4 February-5 May 1988, we maintained 7 adult white-tailed deer on various feeding regimes to simulate natural nutritional restriction during winter. Mass loss was greater (P = 0.037) in deer (17.0-32.2%) fed restricted amounts of a low protein low energy diet versus control deer (7.0-17.4%) fed the same diet ad libitum. Serum triiodothyronine (T3) concentrations did not differ (P = 0.191) between groups, but declined (P = 0.001) as nutrition declined. Slopes of percent mass lossSUN and urinary U:C relationships were positive (P = 0.008 and 0.055) in 7 and 6 deer, respectively. Mean U:C was directly related (r2 = 0.52, P = 0.040) to mean cumulative mass loss, whereas mean SUN was not (r2 = 0.29, P = 0.125). Data presented support the potential of urinary U:C as an index of winter nutritional condition of white-tailed deer; however, additional research is required to provide a complete understanding of this index's utility under field conditions.
Additional publication details
Undernutrition and serum and urinary urea nitrogen of white-tailed deer during winter