Exposure of a dam to pathogens may potentially affect her fawns positively or negatively. Mammalian females transfer immunologic protection to their offspring via colostrum obtained while nursing. Conversely, chronic diseases in dams may potentially result in small and weak neonates, reduced milk production or quality, or infection. Little is known about how pathogen exposure in adult female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) affects offspring survival. Our objective was to assess pathogen exposure for female white-tailed deer and subsequent survival rates of fawns in Dunn and Grant counties, North Dakota, and Perkins County, South Dakota, USA. We collected blood serum from 150 adult female deer during 2014. We compared survival of 49 fawns to maternal exposure to 10 pathogens from 37 of 150 adult females. There was no difference in fawn mass between dams based on antibody status and no difference in fawn survival for nine pathogens. The 12-wk survival for fawns born to mothers with antibodies against bovine herpesvirus 1 (BoHV-1, causing infectious bovine rhinotracheitis) was lower than for fawns born from mothers without antibodies against BoHV-1; however, the indirect or direct impacts of BoHV-1 exposure in mothers on fawn survival are unclear. Although our findings suggest that the cost of exposure to previous diseases may have minimal impact on short-term fawn survival for most pathogens, additional research with increased sample sizes is needed to confirm our findings.

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