Date of this Version
Reliable activity measures in free-ranging white-tailed deer could be useful for the assessment of estrous cycling and general activity changes that can occur after immunocontraceptive vaccine treatments. Electronic data-logging (CountcardTM) devices attached to 9 white-tailed doe deer on neck collars were used to monitor their movement activities during 2 rutting seasons in 2.5 acre fenced enclosures. Direct daily behavioral observations on buck responses toward individual does were used to detect estrus and to validate changes in 24-hour activity counts as another indication of estrous cycling. When individual activity counts for the estrus days on the does were compared to diestrus counts as estimated by mean values over days 10 through 15 post-estrus, a significant high product moment correlation of 0.946 was obtained indicating similar and proportional changes in activity under the 2 behaviorally-detected conditions. As predicted, mean activity counts for the estrus days were significantly higher (P<0.0039) than the mean counts for the diestrus days. This indicated some potential utility for the devices as sensors for estrus detection. Even though the individual deer showed different activity baseline levels and a high degree of daily variation, estrus days were frequently characterized by minor peaks in the daily activity counts followed within a day or a day and a half by a sharp activity decline, an indication that the does were at this point receptive to mounting by bucks.