Ear Tag and PIT Tag Retention by White-tailed Deer

Author(s): Emily H. Belser, David G. Hewitt, Ryan L. Reitz, Kory R. Gann, John S. Lewis, Mickey W. Hellickson

Published: December 2017

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White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) have been marked with various tags for a wide variety of applications, such as longitudinal, movement, disease, and mark–recapture studies. Tag persistence is critical to all these applications. We used nest survival models in Program MARK to estimate tag retention from 1) 832 free-range white-tailed deer marked with large plastic ear tags in both ears and Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags in the leg and at the base of the ear, and 2) 412 free-range deer marked with metal ear tags in both ears, captured in Texas, USA, 1997–2007. We calculated tag retention from 401 captive deer marked with 2 types of Electronic Identification (EID) ear tags (button or combi) in one ear and 36 captive deer marked with small plastic ear tags in one ear. Annual retention rates were greatest for button EID tags (0.992; 0.983–0.998), combi EID tags (0.979; 0.953–0.996), small plastic ear tags (0.978; 0.965–0.995), and large plastic ear tags (0.958; 0.950–0.965). Passive integrated transponder tags at the base of the ear (0.923; 0.910–0.935) and metal tags (0.909; 0.891–0.924) had fair retention rates. Passive integrated transponder tags placed in the leg (0.779; 0.758–0.800) had the lowest retention rate. Although many factors influence tag selection, EID tags and both small and large plastic tags demonstrate the greatest annual retention rates of both captive and free-range, marked deer. 2017 The Wildlife Society.