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The reproductive performance of the endangered Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) is a potential limiting factor in its conservation. We analyzed data collected by necropsy of 142 female Key deer from 1968 through 1989 to provide a better understanding of their reproduction. A breeding season of about 6 months was longer than for more northerly herds of white-tailed deer. Productivity of Key deer was low (0.76 fetuses/F ≥1 yr of age at breeding) and fetal sex ratio (74% M) was high for the species. Rates of reproductive activity (% pregnant or lactating) for females at age of breeding were 4% for fawns, 58% for yearlings, 61% for ages 2-4 years, and 90% for females ≥5 years of age. Eight (17%) of 48 pregnant females carried twins, and the remainder carried single fetuses. We hypothesize that poor reproductive performance of female Key deer is due to a nutrient deficiency or that it evolved as an adaptation to an insular habitat.
The Journal of Wildlife Management © 1991 Wiley