U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

January 2007


Published in OHIO J SCI 107 (4): 50-56,2007.


Use of noninvasive DNA-based tissue sampling (e.g., hair, scats) for individual identification in wildlife studies has increased markedly in recent years. Although field techniques for collecting hair samples have been developed for several species, we are unaware of their use with free-ranging ungulates. From December 2004 to August 2005 we evaluated the efficacy of barbed wire for snaring hair samples suitable for genetic analyses from white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on trails and at baited sites. During initial trials on a semi-captive deer herd in northern Ohio, deer demonstrated avoidance of barbed wire positioned on game trails through four weeks but entered baited sites with barbed wire in <3 days. Field trials on free-ranging deer in Michigan using two snare configurations at baited sites checked at one-or-two-week intervals also were successful in obtaining hair samples suitable for extracting DNA. Number of hair samples appeared to increase with deer activity. Number of hair samples and amount of hair in individual samples were greater during winter and spring than during summer. Adequate genetic material was present in 98% (n = 53) of samples collected during winter. Obtaining hair samples non-invasively from white-tailed deer has numerous applications including determining natal origin, population monitoring, and density estimates. We recommend use of baited sites encircled with a single strand of 15.5 gauge, four-point, barbed wire 80 cm above ground attached to >3 trees. In treeless areas, metal or wood posts could be substituted. Hair snare height and configuration could be adapted for other ungulate species.