Female deer have been known to travel greater distances than their male counterparts from the home base. They thus present a special challenge to scientists since they are prone to disease.
White-tailed deer disperse far from the home base. Although fewer female deer than males disperse, when they do so, they travel such great distances that they end up in far-off territories.
These female deer follow complex pathways and also range over extensive areas. Research was done on 277 deer in their prime. They had radio collars affixed to their bodies. The data generated holds value in those states where deer are susceptible to chronic wasting disease.
This disease is infecting many deer in the wild. The greater distance traveled by the female deer means that they are density dependent. Thus the thing is to reduce deer density thereby lowering rates of the disease. Yet this is a difficult proposal.
In Pennsylvania alone 8 to 24 percent female deer and 50 to 75 percent male deer undergo dispersal. However, the females survive longer than the males.
Also they disperse for upto 11 miles while the males go as far as 5 miles only. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) infects the nervous system of deer and elk. It is a fatal illness.
Wildlife conservationist have raised quite a hue and cry to find a cure for CWD. The disease has been found among deer and elk in 23 states and two provinces of Canada.
Through dispersal, the deer population undergoes a shuffling in its gene pool. Yet it is also responsible for the spread of CWD among the deer population. Dispersal is said to reduce cases of inbreeding and also aids mate selection. It leads to a greater access to food resources too.
Certain social signals aid in the process of dispersal. Usually these are due to the dominance-submission rituals which are an in-built feature of every animal species.
By noting down the factors that cause dispersal, scientists will be better able to gauge the spread of disease. A cure might thus be on the way. The dispersal behavior is a fairly complex scheme. It does not follow a simple pattern.
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Ultimately, the cure for CWD lies in tracking females that stray too far away from their home base. Therein lies the hope for finding a means of treating CWD and restoring order and harmony to the deer and elk populations.