Evaluation of new technologies for estimating age of white-tailed deer by tooth characteristics
Meares, Jeremy Michael
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Despite considerable previous research, there remains a need for an objective, reliable method for estimating age of harvested white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Using digital photographs and GIS, I measured dentine and enamel widths on molars of known-aged, wild deer from South Carolina to objectively evaluate the original tooth wear and replacement technique. I found that objective measurements of the dentine:enamel ratio of the molars could not separate among age classes. To improve predictability, I used K nearest neighbor (KNN) analyses to evaluate combinations of tooth wear measurements. Using KNN analysis, I achieved an overall accuracy rate of 54.4% for placing deer into year age class categories 2.5, 3.5, and 4.5. I also examined the use of near-infrared spectroscopy to estimate age on a sample of mandibles from captive deer at the University of Georgia ranging in age from 1.5-6.5 years. I used readings from molars to generate a regression relationship with age that produced an unreliable predictive relationship with age. My results suggest that subjective age estimates from biologists are more accurate than multivariate analyses of precise tooth measurements.