Tagged buck died, was resuscitated and went on ‘off the charts’ journey

Published 8:55 am Saturday, March 16, 2019

Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks have been tracking deer as part of a study, but what one buck did was totally unexpected.

The study began in 2016 when researchers selected 55 mature bucks in Madison and Yazoo counties. Each buck was captured and then fitted with a tracking collar and ear tags. The goal of the study was to monitor the bucks’ movement during the 2017 and 2018 deer seasons to see how they react to hunting pressure.

During the study, some of the bucks in the study died. Others lost their collars when their antlers shed. So, the collars were retrieved and placed on other mature bucks. One of those bucks was a 4 1/2-year-old captured in 2018.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“It would have been Aug. 24 of 2018,” said Ashley Jones, an MSU graduate student. “He was darted (with a sedative). His orange deer tag number is 27.”

Buck No. 27 was a different case right from the start. He basically died while team members gathered data and outfitted him with a collar and tags.

“The sedatives we use, it affects deer differently,” Jones said. “He actually stopped breathing. He was probably our most extreme case and it happened very fast.”

Jones said chest compressions were performed on the buck and he was given an injection to reverse the effects of the sedative. The quick reaction to the situation worked.

“He woke up, got on his feet and ran away,” Jones said.

And No. 27 kept running.

“That was the interesting part,” Jones said. “He kept on going.
“The distance he walked was more than ‘as the crow flies.’ It was about 22 to 25 kilometers to where he moved. What was interesting is he moved 22 kilometers west all along the river.”

He started in Madison County east of the Big Black River. He then crossed the river into Yazoo County, crossed US 49, continued west, crossed the Big Black River again and settled back in Madison County. But he was approximately 14 miles from where he was captured.

“Until the end of December, he stayed there,” Jones said. “Then, Jan. 2, he moved 10 kilometers east and moved about 10 kilometers north through Bentonia.

“Then he followed that same route back down in the end of February and moved back to where we captured him.”

Other deer in the study basically fit into two categories. Some had a single core area while others had two.

Apparently having three core areas, Buck No. 27 didn’t really fit into either of those categories and his overall home range dwarfed those of other deer.

“The total lengths of both of those home ranges is typically two to three kilometers up to about six at the higher end,” Jones said. “He’s off the charts at 22.

“Technically, it’s all his home range. It’s just a giant one. We just don’t know where he spent the majority of his time prior to being collared.”

The buck’s travels took him to some unexpected places. He walked within sight of a Shell convenience store and gas station located just off US 49.

He also walked through the town of Bentonia. And he survived many potential perils along the way including US 49 where dead deer are a common sight.

“Somehow he didn’t get shot, but that may have been because of the collar,” Jones said. “But, he crossed a lot of roads and that was interesting.

“He’s definitely in an area with more major roads than our other deer. None of our other deer have done that. Of course, our other deer would have had to leave the study area to do that and he was the only one that did.”

Jones is currently collecting collars which were programmed to fall off of the bucks this month. She is also studying the data to create a clearer picture in the coming months of how mature bucks react to hunting pressure, which will be valuable information for deer hunters.

“I’m hoping to graduate in August, so it should be done by then,” Jones said.