LSU AgCenter Makes Advance In Artificial Insemination Of White-tailed Deer

Dearl Sanders, Godke, Robert A., Morgan, Johnny W.  |  7/1/2006 4:04:53 AM

LSU AgCenter research associate Will Forbes hands office coordinator Laura Aucoin a couple of week-old fawns at the AgCenter’s Idlewild Research Station. The fawns are part of an experimental breeding program at the station that could help improve disease resistance in wild herds as well as improve other desirable genetic traits such as larger antlers. With these research animals, Forbes said there’s not a problem that the doe will not reject the fawns – as some wild animals will because of the human scent on their babies.

This white-tailed fawn is the result of a new technique that’s being developed at the LSU AgCenter’s Idlewild Research Station near Clinton. This fawn is one of three that was born at the station in early June. Dr. Dearl Sanders, professor and resident director at the station, said the fawns are the result of sperm taken from a “fair chase buck” (legally killed) implanted in a captive doe at the research station.

This fawn is one of 25 that are the result of artificial insemination research at the LSU AgCenter’s Idlewild Research Station. In this case, however, the buck that provided the sperm for these fawns is still alive.

News Release Distributed 06/30/06

LSU AgCenter researchers are working on a new technique that has the potential of improving wild and captive white-tailed deer herds in the state.

Dr. Dearl Sanders, LSU AgCenter professor and resident director at the Idlewild Research Station near Clinton, says artificial insemination research on deer at the station could be the breakthrough for bigger, healthier deer.

"During the week of June 5, we had the birth of three fawns that were the product of extracting viable semen from the epidiymus of a dead buck," Sanders said. "What this means is that we can now take the testicles from harvested deer and artificially breed does to reproduce offspring with those desirable traits."

This idea goes back to 2003 when a graduate student in the LSU and LSU AgCenter Department of Animal Science was finishing up his graduate program of deriving viable semen from dead beef animals by extracting the semen from the epidiymus, researchers say.

"I asked him if it would be possible to do this with white-tailed deer since captive extraction of semen from wild deer is difficult and illegal in most states," Sanders said, adding, "We attempted the process in late 2003 with testicles taken from a captive deer that died of natural causes and the process proved promising."

In 2004, the protocols were developed for successful artificial insemination of white-tailed does at the Idlewild Research Station under the direction of LSU AgCenter research associates Glen Gentry and Will Forbes.

Sanders said at that time there also was a cooperative effort developed between Idlewild personnel, headed by graduate student Jesse Saenz, and biologists with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Dwight Landreneau, secretary of the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said he looks forward to continuing such efforts.

"We will continue to assist research efforts of this nature that may provide new deer management techniques in appropriate applications," Landreneau said recently.

Sanders explained the research program was initiated by collecting testicles from "fair chase" (legally killed) bucks from five wildlife management areas

The ages and antler dimensions were recorded, and Saenz expanded on the work that had been done with beef cattle the year before. He was able to extract live sperm from one buck taken near Deridder in 2004, froze this sperm and stored it until the fall of 2005.

Sanders said Saenz used protocols developed by Gentry and Forbes and artificially inseminated six Idlewild captive does.

"The does were isolated into a pen to prevent exposure to any other bucks," Sanders said. "And after 30 days, our ultrasound analysis indicated that three and possibly four of the does were pregnant."

On June 9, the first of the pregnant does delivered triplets, which is extremely rare. The smallest of the three fawns died shortly after birth. But the two surviving fawns represent the ability to derive offspring from harvested wild deer.

Dr. Bob Godke, a Boyd Professor in Animal Science who is internationally known for his research in assisted reproductive technologies in animals in the LSU AgCenter, said he is pleased to see this research.

Gentry and Saenz began their project when they were in the Reproductive Physiology graduate program in the Department of Animal Sciences, Godke said, going on to explain that the research that produced these fawns resulted from joint planning sessions of the LSU AgCenter’s Reproductive Biology Center and the researchers at the Idlewild Research Station.

Sanders says this process increases the ability to extract valued genetic material from wild populations of whitetails for either improved animal development programs or to determine if undesirable characteristics in wild herds are the result of poor genetics.

"As a general rule, the hunters seek the largest buck during the hunting season," Godke said. "With the killing of these males, until now their genetics would have been lost.

"But being able freeze the epididymal sperm for subsequent artificial insemination the next breeding season from hunter-killed trophy white-tailed deer will help save the best genetics in the male population to generate offspring that would carry these males’ genes into subsequent generations."

The research that forms the basis for these tests already is being developed for use with farm animals, Godke said.

"My hope is that in the future it will be used in both companion animals and endangered species," Godke said.


Robert Godke at (225) 578-3444 or
Dearl Sanders at (225) 683-5848 or

Johnny Morgan at (225) 281-0814 or

Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture