We evaluated an expandable, breakaway VHF radiocollar design for use on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) from birth to about 1 year of age. A similar collar design has been used on caribou (Rangifer tarandus), but we found that the collar did not expand quickly enough to accommodate increase in neck circumference of fawns during the first 2 months of life. Consequently, we modified the stitching pattern so that the first expansion fold opened faster. We monitored performance of this modification on free-ranging and captive fawns. Also, we collected data on neck growth in fawns to document design requirements of expandable collars for white-tailed deer. Mean neck circumference at ???14 days of age of free-ranging fawns in Pennsylvania was 17.8 cm (SD=1.67, n=62) for males and 17.3 cm (SD=1.50, n=52) for females. Based on measurements of captive fawns, neck circumference increased 8.8 cm from birth to August, 2.5 cm from August to October, and 2.6 cm from October to March. Observations of captive fawns fitted with dummy radiocollars indicated that collars expanded when needed and caused no apparent discomfort to fawns. We detected no problems with use of 86 collars on 113 free-ranging fawns for >270 days and recovered radiocollars expanded as designed. The elastic collar material failed on 3 collars (3%) after 142, 207, and 226 days on fawns, and 1-5 radiocollars (???4%) were cast by fawns. Our modification to this radiocollar design reduced fawn discomfort or suffering, allowing researchers to better comply with principles of the Animal Welfare Act.
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Evaluation of an expandable, breakaway radiocollar for white-tailed deer fawns