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Lifelong identification of individual fallow deer, based on their fur pattern
  • Zabel Frank,
  • Gernot Maaß
Zabel Frank
Stiftung Tierarztliche Hochschule Hannover

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Gernot Maaß
Naturwacht Hamburg e.V.
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Abstract

The identification of individual animals is vital for a wide range of studies, in particular for the estimation of population densities, the understanding of social networks as well as for the assessment of their age-related physical development. For antlered deer of the Cervidae family, researchers have often used the antlers as markers for the identification of individuals animals. This marker is very unreliable, due to the high variability of the antlers in line with the aging of the males and damages, which are often caused by rut fights. Other markers are therefore needed to recognize individual males, but also females of these species over a longer period. This article proves, that the fur patterns of fallow deer maintain their key characteristics throughout the entire life of the deer, from age 1 on. The method is very robust and applies to all fallow deer which feature spots and other markings in their fur.