When hunters in Lowndes and surrounding counties see deer with colored ear tags this fall, researchers at Mississippi State University hope they will allow the research subjects to roam.
Scientists at MSU’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center are studying antler size and growth rates for 77 tagged whitetail bucks in the wild. Researchers hope to determine whether antler size in young deer is a predictor of antler size at maturity.
Bucks in the project are tagged as fawns or yearlings and monitored with trail cameras until they reach 5 to 6 years old. This is the second year of the project, and researchers hope hunters will not harvest these valuable research animals.
The study is centered in the 40,000-acre Tombigbee Cooperative in Lowndes County, which covers areas around the Tombigbee River and beyond.
"Understanding antler development under field conditions further helps us provide science-based advice to set hunting regulations, especially related to antler restrictions as selective harvest criteria for younger bucks," said Steve Demarais, wildlife biologist in MSU’s wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture department.
Hunters are asked to refrain from harvesting these research animals, but there is no legal restriction against it. Demarais requested that hunters and landowners who take photographs of tagged deer email a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org. If a tagged buck is harvested, please send a photo of the harvested animal to the same email address.