Though nearly annihilated in the Southeast during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, white-tailed deer populations have rebounded thanks to highly successful recovery programs.
A Mississippi State research report examining genetic effects of the recovery programs is earning the top publication award of the Wildlife Society, an international nonprofit organization based in Bethesda, Md.
Written by former university doctoral student Randall W. "Randy” DeYoung of Kingsville, Texas, "Genetic Consequences of White-Tailed Deer Restoration in Mississippi” recently was selected for the society's 2004 Wildlife Publication Award. The report was published last year in the scientific journal Molecular Ecology.
DeYoung collaborated on the research and its publication with MSU professor of wildlife and fisheries Steve Demarais and former biology professor Alex Rooney. A May doctor of philosophy graduate in forest resources, DeYoung now works at Texas A&M University.
Founded in 1997, the Wildlife Society is a nonprofit scientific and educational association of more than 9,000 members in more than 60 countries. The organization's publication awards recognize scientific writings characterized by research originality and high scholastic standards.
"Randy is the first to successfully document reproductive success in wild populations of white-tailed deer,” Demarais said. "His work will aid other researchers' understanding of management effectiveness of white-tailed deer populations throughout North America.”
Demarais said recovery programs implemented in the early 1900s included protection of native stock and transplants from other parts of the species' range.
"Deer populations rebounded rapidly after these efforts, and deer presently occur in all parts of their former range,” he explained. While white-tailed deer restoration may be one of the nation's most successful conservation efforts, he added that conservation on such a large scale may have effects on patterns of genetic variation in restored populations.
Dave Godwin, research coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, also stressed the importance of DeYoung's work.
"While the reproductive success of a balanced deer herd previously was attributed to a few dominant bucks, DeYoung's investigation shows that a much larger number of bucks across all age classes are involved in fathering fawns,” Godwin said.
"For conservationists, it is significant to know that restored populations maintain a high and uniform genetic variability,” he added.
For more information about the white-tailed deer study, contact Steve Demarais at (662) 325-2618.