, Volume 91, Issue 12, pp 579-584
Date: 08 Oct 2004

Feeding and reproductive behaviour in fallow bucks (Dama dama)

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Abstract

Observations on individually marked fallow deer (Dama dama) in central Italy were performed over 2 years in order to analyse time budgets of four age and sex classes. The aim was to test whether feeding activity was influenced by mating activity, forage quality or physiological constraints during the rut. Only adult males (bucks) completely ceased feeding during the rutting season, well before the actual start of mating behaviour and concurrently with the phenomenon of scent-urination, and spending most of their daily time completely inactive. All other age and sex classes were unaffected in their feeding behaviour by the rutting season. Indeed, females and young males showed a marked increase in grazing in response to an improvement in forage quality from summer to autumn. These results seem to confirm the hypothesis that hypophagia, displayed only by bucks, may be of no adaptive value in itself. On the other hand, it may be a by-product of other physiological processes occurring during the rut, inducing scent-urination, which plays an important role in intraspecific recognition and sexual attraction.