The ways in which comprehensive condition profiles, incorporating morphometric, histologic, physiologic, and diet quality indices, responded to changes in density of a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population were examined. Changes in these condition indices were monitored in a northeastern Oklahoma deer herd as density declined from peaks of 80 and 72 deer/km2 in 1989 and 1990 (high-density) to lows of 39 and 41 deer/km2 in 1991 and 1992 (reduced-density), respectively. Compared to a reference population (6 deer/km2), deer sampled during high-density exhibited classic signs of nutritional stress such as low body and visceral organ masses (except elevated adrenal gland mass), low fecal nitrogen levels, reduced concentrations of serum albumin, elevated serum creatinine concentrations, and a high prevalence of parasitic infections. Although density declined by one half over the 4-yr study, gross indices of condition (in particular body mass and size) remained largely unchanged. However, selected organ masses, serum albumin and non-protein nitrogen constituents, and fecal nitrogen indices reflected improvements in nutritional status with reductions in density. Many commonly used indices of deer condition (fat reserves, hematocrit, total serum protein, and blood urea nitrogen) were not responsive to fluctuations in density. ?? Wildlife Disease Association 1998.
Additional publication details
Sensitivity of condition indices to changing density in a white-tailed deer population