Deer deaths could provide new insight – Jackson Clarion Ledger

A study designed to shed light on the life of a white-tailed buck is beginning to provide the opposite as well; how they die.

Since October, a total of 58 bucks were captured, tagged and fitted with monitoring collars as a part of a study being conducted by Mississippi State University. The study is taking place on private lands in Madison and Yazoo counties and is designed to track the bucks’ movements.

The GPS collars will collect data on the movement of the deer throughout the year, but during hunting seasons, it will collect data more frequently. At the same time, many of the landowners and hunting clubs have agreed to provide information about when and where they hunt through the MSU Deer Lab Deer Hunt app. Together, the two sets of data will provide a much clearer picture of how deer react to hunting pressure.

However, five of the deer have died and that information could be the beginnings of an entirely different data set.

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According to MSU graduate research assistant Ashley Jones, the first death came only a day after the deer was captured and released. It had a shoulder injury that appeared to be an infected arrow wound. She attributed his death to the wound combined with the stress of the capture.

Another was involved in a collision with a vehicle and a third was shot by a hunter. Jones said the hunter reported the shooting and explained he did not see the ear tags or orange collar.

While those deaths probably come as no surprise, the others are more interesting.

“We did have two mortalities last week,” Jones said. “They appeared to be related to rutting activity.

“One of the bucks had lost over 100 pounds and had a puncture wound in his neck that was very, very infected. The other deer we got a mortality alert two weeks ago.”

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Jones said the GPS collars send out a mortality alert whenever the deer in the study don’t move for 12 hours. Following an electronic signal, Jones was able to locate the animal.

“He was alive, but very weak,” Jones said. “We just left him hoping he would get better, but he was dead this week.”

When Jones spotted the buck, he was standing 20 yards away with his ears down and had injuries that seemed consistent with fighting another buck during the rut. Jones did not move closer to the animal so he didn’t suffer the additional stress of a closer encounter with a human.

When she returned after the second mortality alert, he was dead and partially consumed, so she was unable to inspect the injuries closely.

Although only two of the bucks appear to have been killed by other bucks, this is only the start of a three-year study. During that time, we may have a better understanding of how deadly the breeding season can be.

“It’s not something the public thinks about,” Jones said. “As a hunter myself, that’s not something that’s very emphasized. It’s one of the added bonuses we’ll get with the data we collect.”

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Contact Brian Broom at 601-961-7225 or bbroom@gannett.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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