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Using n-alkane markers to estimate forage intake of mule deer

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Dry matter intake (DMI) of free-ranging mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus (Rafinesque, 1817)) in the aspen parkland of east-central Alberta was estimated using the double n-alkane ratio and bite count methods. Eleven female mule deer were given an intraruminal capsule containing synthetic n-alkanes and released into 4–8ha paddocks. Known concentration of even-chained carbon (C32) was released from the capsules and recovered 7–10days later from freshly voided faeces. Odd carbon chains of adjacent length (C31:C33) were extracted from vegetation samples gathered during behavioural observations of four tame deer. Calculations from the pairings (C31:C32; C33:C32) provided estimates of DMI that ranged from 1.29 to 2.73kg/day. DMI was highest during autumn, possibly to prepare for increased energy demands for the upcoming winter. No differences were found in seasonal or annual comparisons of bite rates, but bite sizes differed in all comparisons, suggesting bite size was a critical factor affecting consumption rates for mule deer on northern ranges. Maximum bite sizes rose from 49± 5mg/bite in July to 213± 58mg/bite in October. Maximum consumption rates were in October of both years (3.6–4.4g/min) and occasionally approached theoretical maxima (14.3–15.6g/min).

Nous avons estimé l’ingestion de matière sèche (DMI) de cerfs-mulets (Odocoileus hemionus (Rafinesque, 1817)) libres dans la tremblaie-parc du centre-est de l’Alberta à l’aide des méthodes du dosage double des n-alcanes et du dénombrement des coups de mâchoire. Nous avons introduit une capsule contenant des n-alcanes synthétiques dans le rumen de onze femelles du cerf-mulet que nous avons libérées dans des enclos de 4 à 8 ha. Des concentrations connues de chaînes paires de carbone (C32) sont libérées des capsules et sont récupérées 7–10 jours plus tard des fèces fraîchement excrétées. Nous avons extrait des chaînes impaires de carbone de longueur voisine (C31:C33) des échantillons de végétation récoltés durant des observations comportementales de quatre cerfs apprivoisés. Les calculs faits à partir des appariements (C31:C32; C33:C32) donnent des estimations de DMI qui varient de 1,29 à 2,73 kg/jour. DMI est maximal en automne probablement en prévision des demandes énergétiques accrues de l’hiver qui approche. Il n’y a pas de différences dans les comparaisons annuelles ou saisonnières des taux de morsures, mais la taille des bouchées varie dans toutes les comparaisons, ce qui indique que la taille de la bouchée est un facteur critique qui affecte les taux de consommation chez le cerf-mulet dans les pâturages nordiques. Les tailles maximales des bouchées augmentent de 49 ± 5 mg/morsure en juillet à 213± 58 mg/morsure en octobre. Les taux maximaux de consommation s’observent en octobre des deux années (3,6–4,4g/min) et s’approchent quelquefois des taux maximaux théoriques (14,3–15,6 g/min).

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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