Short Communication

Conservation Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 1547-1552

First online:

Effects of time and rainfall on PCR success using DNA extracted from deer fecal pellets

  • Todd J. BrinkmanAffiliated with211 Irving I, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks Email author 
  • , Michael K. SchwartzAffiliated withUSDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • , David K. PersonAffiliated withAlaska Department of Fish & Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation
  • , Kristine L. PilgrimAffiliated withUSDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • , Kris J. HundertmarkAffiliated with211 Irving I, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks

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Non-invasive wildlife research using DNA from feces has become increasingly popular. Recent studies have attempted to solve problems associated with recovering DNA from feces by investigating the influence of factors such as season, diet, collection method, preservation method, extraction protocol, and time. To our knowledge, studies of this nature have not addressed DNA degradation over time in wet environments, and have not been performed on fecal pellets of ungulates. Therefore, our objective was to determine the length of time a fecal pellet from a Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) could remain in the field in a temperate rainforest environment before the DNA became too degraded for individual identification. Pellets were extracted from the rectum of recently killed deer and placed in an environment protected from rainfall and in an environment exposed to rainfall. Pellets from each treatment group were sampled at intervals of 2, 7, 14, 21, and 28 days after deer harvest. DNA was extracted from sampled pellets and individual samples were genotyped using microsatellite markers. Amplification failure and errors (dropout and false alleles) were recorded to determine extent of DNA degradation. Eighty percent of samples in the protected environment and 22% of samples in the exposed environment were successfully genotyped during the 28-day experiment. With no samples being successfully genotyped in the exposed environment after 7 days, our study showed that rainfall significantly increases degradation rates of DNA from ungulate pellets.


DNA degradation Feces Microsatellites Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis PCR Precipitation Sitka black-tailed deer