SREL Reprint #2524




Genetic heterogeneity of white-tailed deer: management lessons from a long-term study

M. H. Smith1,2,3, J. M. Novak1,2, J. D. Peles4, and J. R. Purdue5

1University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, P.O. Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29802, USA
2Institute of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 30602, USA
3Department of Genetics and School of Forest Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 30602, USA
4207 Ostermayer Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University McKeesport, 4000 University Drive,
McKeesport, PA, 15132, USA
5Zoology Section, Illinois State Museum, 1101 E. Ash St., Springfield, IL, 62703, USA

Abstract: Genetic data from a long-term (16-year) study of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS) were examined to evaluate spatial and temporal genetic heterogeneity in this species. Based on our analyses of the tong-term data set, three major findings emerged, all of which have important implications for management of white-tailed deer: (1) There exists significant spatial genetic heterogeneity in white-tailed deer based on analyses of allozyme frequencies and mtDNA haplotypes. This heterogeneity exists on a much smaller spatial scale than would be expected for such a large and potentially mobile species as O. virginianus. (2) The genetic structure of white-tailed deer at SRS is temporally dynamic and significant heterogeneity exists within demographic units such as age and sex classes. (3) Levels of genetic variation, as measured by multilocus heterozygosity, are frequently correlated to characteristics that are important determinants of ecological function in white-tailed deer populations.  These findings are evaluated in the context of a general management model for O. virginianus that is also applicable to other wildlife species.

Keywords: Odocoileus virginianus, allozymes, mtDNA, spatio-temporal heterogeneity, demographic heterogeneity

SREL Reprint #2524

Smith, M. H., J. M. Novak, J.D. Peles, and J. R. Purdue. 2001. Genetic heterogeneity of white-tailed deer: management lessons from a long-term study. Mammalian Biology 66:1-12.

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