Characteristics of Dominant and Subordinate Led Social Groups of White-tailed Deer in Illinois

This study of dominant and subordinate led social groups of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) was designed to investigate longevity and associations among members as well as the reproductive success that determines the durability of these groups. Characteristics of 25 dominant and 17 subordinate female led social groups of white-tailed deer were studied on three areas in Illinois. Group size for dominant led social groups ranged between 3.8 and 5.2 deer/y and for subordinate led groups only 2-2.5 deer. Dominant females survived significantly longer (8.2 y) then did subordinate females (5.4 y) and fawns born to dominants were significantly more sedentary after independence. Fawn recruitment (fawns alive at 1 y) was also significantly higher for fawns born to dominant females. Members of a dominant female's social group generally confined themselves to the home range of the dominant female but as they aged were seen less often with her. Dominant females occupied stable habitats free of environmental problems while subordinates occupied ranges with frequent natural and human induced disturbances. By association, fawns of dominant females inherit a stable home range that fosters improved longevity and successful fawn recruitment.

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