Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Demarais, Stephen

Committee Member

Strickland, K, Bronson

Committee Member

Gee, L. Kenneth

Committee Member

DeYoung, W. Randy

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Forest Resources

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Forest Resources


Department of Wildlife and Fisheries


White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) have been intensively studied across their range. However, many aspects of the white-tailed deer’s ecology have not been studied or are difficult to study. The advent of global positioning system (GPS) collar technology and molecular genetics techniques now allows researchers to collect fine-scale and cryptic phenomena. In addition, selective harvest of male white-tailed deer, based on antler size, has not been critically evaluated. Thus, development and use of quantitative genetics models will be useful for elucidating the effects of selective harvest on mean population antler size. I used GPS collar technology to further understand white-tailed deer movement ecology. First, I determined the efficacy and influence of a high-tensile electric fence (HTEF) on deer movements. The HTEF controlled deer movements when properly maintained and had little influence on deer spatial dynamics, making it a safe and cost-effective alternative to traditional fencing. Second, I studied fine-scale deer movements using GPS collars collecting locations every 15 minutes. Hourly deer movements were greatest in the morning and evening. Parturition and rut influenced movements of females and males, respectively whereas weather and moon phase had minimal influence on movements. Molecular genetics techniques are becoming more widespread and accessible, which may allow insight into the link between genetics and antler size. I found deer in 3 diverse populations from Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas were relatively heterozygous and unrelated. Groups of deer with similar antler characteristics did not appear to be inbred or share common ancestors. In addition, there was not a strong link between individual multi-locus heterozygosity and antler points or score. Selective harvest has been implicated in causing negative evolutionary and biological responses in several ungulate species. To better determine how selective harvest (i.e., culling; the removal of deer with inferior antlers) affects white-tailed deer antler size, I used quantitative genetic models to simulate response of deer antlers to selection. In simulated controlled breeding situations response to selection was rapid, resulting in improvement in antler size. In simulated free-ranging populations response of antler size to selection was slow and only resulted in minimal increases in antler points after 20 years.



white-tailed deer||weather||selective harvest||Odocoileus virginianus||movements||models||inbreeding||home range||heterozygosity||genetics||electric fence||antlers