Stocking Deer for Genetic Improvement

Deer and genetics 

Stocking deer from another area into a deer population in an attempt to introduce new genes and improve quality is a controversial and much discussed subject.  The genetic contribution of 1 individual buck is limited where it is introduced into a population where other bucks are already present and also breeding does.

There is no research available that indicates that introducing several bucks improves quality unless the pedigrees of the deer (bucks as well as does) stocked are known. Otherwise there is a good chance that undesirable, but not easily recognizable, characteristics are being introduced.

Stocking deer is also costly, not to mention animals may have difficulty adapting to their new environment and mortality can be unusually high.  It is much better to work with the resident population and cull bucks with poor antler characteristics and retain bucks with desirable characteristics. There are numerous examples where the native deer in an area where the average antler quality has been historically low have produced outstanding antlers through a combination of good habitat management, population management, and supplemental feeding.  Deer within these populations had the genetic potential for large antlers, but were unable to express their potential because of inadequate nutrition and/or they were harvested before reaching maturity.

The gene pool of a deer population enclosed with a high fence is essentially closed.  It is more feasible to make noticeable changes in the genetics of population enclosed with a fence where the flow of genes can be controlled than in a free-ranging population that has a constant exchange of genes from a large area, especially if selective harvest is not being practiced on surrounding lands. 

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