Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Pennsylvania
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Rosenberry, C. S., E. S. Long, H. M. Hassel-Finnegan, V. P. Buonaccorsi, D. R. Diefenbach, and B. D. Wallingford. 2009. Lack of mother–offspring relationships in white-tailed deer capture groups. Journal of Wildlife Management 73:357-361.


Behavioral studies of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) often assign mother–offspring relationships based on common capture of juveniles with adult deer, assuming that fawns associate closely with mothers. We tested this assumption using genetic parentage to assess mother–offspring relationships within capture groups based on data from 10 polymorphic microsatellite loci. At the 80% confidence level, we assigned maternity to 43% and 51% of juveniles captured with an adult female in 2 respective study areas. Capture with their mother did not differ by sex of juveniles in either study area, and limiting our analysis to capture groups that most represent family groups (i.e., one ad F with 1–3 juv) did not increase maternity assignment (35%). Our results indicate that common capture may be a poor indicator of mother–offspring relationships in many field settings. We recommend genetic verification of family relationships.