Sika deer (Cervus nippon) suffer severe winter food limitation in northern Japan; however, plant food resources are available during winter in southern Japan and, consequently, deer nutritional status may not decrease there. To test this hypothesis, we measured seasonal changes in Riney’s kidney fat index (RKFI) and stomach intake in 74 culled deer individuals from five areas with different deer densities on Yakushima Island, Japan. The average RKFI differed significantly among populations and ranged from 22.91 ± 11.91 to 76.23 ± 15.99. There was no significant correlation between RKFI and deer density. The total fresh weight of rumen contents also differed significantly among populations, ranging from 0.51 to 3.51 kg. Food intake and RKFI exhibited an L-shaped distribution in the vicinity of a town ranch. However, we found that food intake had a significantly positive effect in populations at the other four locations, suggesting that changes in nutritional status were related to the quantity of deer rumen contents. Neither deer density nor season were significantly correlated with RKFI values. The average RKFI values exceeded 20 in all five locations. These findings indicate that the deer were not in a poor nutritional condition even in high density areas of >70 head/km2, which supports the above hypothesis. Notably, food intake varied among individuals in the same area, but was independent of body weight and age, which suggests that food selectivity differs between deer individuals.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics