Quantifying dominance of adult female white-tailed deer in the presence of abundant food

Eric S. Michel, Stephen Demarais, Bronson K. Strickland, Jerrold L. Belant, Joshua J. Millspaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Dominance is a behavioural mechanism that allows individuals to access and monopolize resources which should ultimately improve their fitness. Hierarchy strength should be strongest when resources are limited; however, this relationship is not consistent. We provided abundant food to assess whether hierarchy strength was consistent with resource abundance using 9 groups of captive female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). We further assessed how body mass, age and testosterone levels were associated with rank position. Deer displayed a weak hierarchy with a mean linearity (h′) of 0.39 (SD = 0.09) and a mean directional consistency index of 0.83 (SD = 0.06). Rank was related to body mass (p = 0.004, slope = 0.011), but not age or testosterone levels (p≥ 0.163). We demonstrate that hierarchy strength was weak in the presence of abundant food resources and suggest the possibility that dominance is a plastic behaviour that may vary with resource abundance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-67
Number of pages19
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • Dominance
  • Food abundance
  • Hierarchy strength
  • White-tailed deer


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