The Mating System of White-Tailed Deer Under Quality Deer Management Academic Article uri icon


  • The Wildlife Society, 2016 Mating systems, which can reveal temporal and spatial plasticity within a given species, may influence inbreeding, effective population size, genetic diversity, reproductive fitness, and survival. Although observational research on white-tailed deer has indicated dominant males monopolize breeding opportunities, recent molecular studies suggest a more complex system. It is possible that population characteristics fostered under management strategies designed to balance the sex ratio and extend the male age structure, such as Quality Deer Management (QDM), influence the pre-breeding interactions that affect the distribution of mating success across age classes. Therefore, our objective was to evaluate the white-tailed deer mating system under QDM through paternity analysis. Using 8 microsatellite loci and tissue samples harvested from hunter-killed deer at Chesapeake Farms in Chestertown, Maryland, we evaluated 731 deer. The 3.5 age class dominated mating at Chesapeake Farms, with 41% of paternity. However, together, the 1.5- and 2.5-year-old age classes accounted for more than half of paternity (59%). No evidence of polyandry was detected. Our results indicate the interaction between the sex ratio and age structure, fostered by strategies that balance the sex ratio and extend the male age structure, facilitate breeding by younger males. These results indicate management strategies that employ QDM practices with a goal of propagating the genes of dominant males may fall short, and the interplay among sex ratio, age structure, and dominance relationships may be the main influences of mating success. Managers should account for these findings when setting expectations for reproduction under restricted harvest. 2016 The Wildlife Society.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Turner, M. M., Deperno, C. S., Booth, W., Vargo, E. L., Conner, M. C., & Lancia, R. A.

citation count

  • 13

complete list of authors

  • Turner, Melissa M||Deperno, Christopher S||Booth, Warren||Vargo, Edward L||Conner, Mark C||Lancia, Richard A

publication date

  • July 2016