Printer Friendly

Faecal nitrogen, an index of diet quality in roe deer Capreolus capreolus?

Monitoring the diet quality of wild ruminants is useful for managing their populations, and for understanding some aspects of their behaviour and ecology, in particular the dynamics of populations in relation to the quality of their food resources. Diet quality encompasses energy value, protein, water, mineral and vitamin contents as well as anti-nutritional factors such as lignin, cutin, suberin, silica and secondary metabolites (Robbins 1983). As energy and/or protein are often the most limiting nutrients for wild herbivores, research has focussed on indices designed to estimate their concentrations in animal diets (Brown et al. 1995). However, direct measurement of diets in wild herbivores is difficult and faecal indices have been proposed to assess diet quality (Putman 1984). In particular, faecal nitrogen (FN) is recognised as an effective indicator for the assessment of spatial, seasonal or individual variations of dietary protein in a variety of grazers (see Leslie et al. 2008 for a review).

In large herbivores, FN is composed largely of metabolic nitrogen (both bacterial and endogenous) and a small amount of undigested plant nitrogen (Wehausen 1995, Schwarm et al. 2009). Metabolic FN increases with diet digestibility because the fermentation activity and turnover of gut bacteria increases. As a consequence, there is a linear relationship between digestibility and FN for grazers eating a variety of forages (see Holechek et al. 1982 for a review). As protein content and digestibility are positively correlated in plants (Robbins 1983), FN also correlates with dietary proteins (Holechek et al. 1982, Putman 1984).

Although useful to predict dietary quality of free ranging grazers, the use of FN to index diet quality of browsers is controversial due to the effect of tannins (Robbins 1983, Hobbs 1987, Osborn & Ginnett 2001), which occur naturally in many species of dicotyledons. Tannins are phenolic compounds that bind to proteins during the chewing and digestive processes. Hydrolysable tannins are degraded and then absorbed in the small intestine, but condensed tannins (CT) are largely indigestible. CT are present in the free form in the plant vacuole, and as a form bound to fibre or to plant proteins. When ingested, CT, mainly the free form, bind to proteins (plant and bacterial proteins and enzymes) in a pH-dependent manner along the digestive tract (Makkar 2003, Min et al. 2003). Tannins may also bind with some salivary proteins (Shimada 2006). These complexes are excreted in the faeces as tannin-protein (mostly endogenous) and tannin-lignin complexes (McSweeney et al. 2001). This leads to post-ingestive effects of tannins which are both positive and negative (Silanikove et al. 2001, Makkar 2003), notably a decrease of protein digestibility and inflation of nitrogen in the faeces (Robbins 1983, Kariuki & Norton 2008). Thus, FN may serve as a valid index of diet quality in browsers only in some circumstances, e.g. if the tannin intake is too low to alter the relation between dietary and faecal nitrogen, or if the effect of the tannins is quite constant across the diets concerned.

FN appears to vary in space and time in several wild ungulate species, both grazers (bighorn sheep Ovis canadensis; Blanchard et al. 2003), browsers (moose Alces alces; Leslie et al. 1989, white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus; Page & Underwood 2006 and black-tailed deer Odocoileus hemionus colombianus; Leslie & Starkey 1985, 1987) and species that are likely to be mixed-feeders (such as sika deer Cervus nippon; Ueno et al. 2007 and Roosevelt elk Cervus canadensis roosevelti; Leslie & Starkey 1985,1987). In these studies, FN follows the seasonal variations of the quality of the vegetation, with the lowest values in winter, then an increase to reach a peak in spring before decreasing in summer and fall (i.e. Leslie & Starkey 1985 and 1987). Variations in FN also occur between years (e.g. Blanchard et al. 2003) and locations (e.g. Osborn & Jenks 1998) in relation to climate, population density, food supplementation or habitat composition. Although such variations in FN seem to be linked to the quality of food resources, direct information on the relationship between faecal and diet quality in browsers is scarce (Leslie et al. 2008). In mule deer Odocoileus hemionus (browser), it has been shown experimentally that the crude protein content of natural diets was well predicted by FN (Hodgman et al. 1996), but the diets tested contained very few or no tannins. High tannin intake increased FN content relatively to dietary nitrogen (DN) in elk Cervus canadensis nelsoni (Mould & Robbins 1981), mule deer (Robbins et al. 1987) and white-tailed deer (Robbins et al. 1987, Osborn & Ginnett 2001), especially for high-nitrogen diets.

Roe deer Capreolus capreolus (browser) inhabit contrasting landscapes offering a wide range of food resources, from the tundra to the Mediterranean, and from forest to farmland (Andersen et al. 1998). This species is known to ingest tannins (Tixier et al. 1997, Verheyden-Tixier & Duncan 2000, Clauss et al. 2003), but diet composition is highly variable among habitats, ranging from highly nutritious grains, free of tannins, such as maize Zea mays,to pure browse containing tannins, such as bramble Rubus fructicosus (Tixier & Duncan 1996, Cornelis et al.1999). To our knowledge, only two published papers (Kamler & Homolka 2005, Hewison et al. 2009) and one unpublished report (Blanchard 1998) have examined FN in roe deer. These studies show seasonal variations of FN corresponding to seasonal variations of plant protein contents and spatial variation of FN in relation to habitat. However, the relation between DN and FN has never been studied experimentally in this species.

Here we aim to assess whether FN is a good predictor of diet quality, expressed as DN, in the natural diets of roe deer. First, we search for seasonal and spatial variations of FN in a population of roe deer. Secondly, we examine the relation between DN and FN in this population. Thirdly, using captive roe deer, we performed feeding trials with natural diets with variable concentrations of nitrogen and tannins, to test if free CT affects the relationship between DN and FN.

Material and methods

FN in the wild population

We studied a population of wild roe deer living in a rural landscape in the Comminges region of southwestern France (43[degrees]13'N, 0[degrees]52'E, see Benhaiem et al. 2008 for a detailed description). Our study area is part of the LTER-Europe Network (Available at:, and is designated as one of its Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) platforms. Our study area comprise several habitat types: a central forest (13% of the area = forest sector) surrounded by an open sector composed of meadows (37%) and cultivated crops (31%; mainly wheat Triticum spp., maize, sunflower Helianthus annuus, soya Glycine max and sorghum Sorghum bicolor) mixed with small woods (14%) and hedges (6%).

Detailed sampling of the available vegetation was performed for other purposes in this area, particularly to study habitat selection. We used the results for the plants that are eaten by roe deer, to assess their nutritional quality. The vegetation was collected in both sectors so as to sample both forest and open landscape units in November (autumn), February (winter), April (spring) and August (summer) 2005 on 417-565 plots per season (plot size 25 X 25 cm quadrats up to a height of 120 cm) spread along regular transects. The plant material collected was grouped in categories (plant species or family and vegetative form: leaves, fruits, seeds and twigs and buds) and sectors, dried (60[degrees]C for 72 hours) and stored in a dark and dry room until the chemical analyses were done in 2009.

We collected faeces of roe deer by searching the ground in both open and forest sectors between September 2004 and June 2007. We obtained 159 samples in autumn (September-November), 156 in winter (December-February), 58 in spring (March-May) and 111 in summer (June-August).

In addition, we collected the faeces and the rumen contents of 41 wild roe deer shot during the hunting season (July-January) in 2004, 2005 and 2006 in both sectors. The faeces and the rumen contents were stored in a deep freezer until analysed.

The botanical composition of the rumen was assessed by macroscopic determination of plant fragments following Maizeret & Tran Manh Sung (1984). After mixing each rumen sample, we collected a 100-g subsample, washed it in a sieve with a 5 mm and a 2 mm mesh. The fractions contained in the 5- and 2-mm mesh sieves were sorted by plant categories under a binocular microscope, then dried and weighed to the nearest 0.01 g. The results for each rumen were expressed as percent dry matter by weight (DM) by plant category. We estimated the nitrogen content of the rumen contents of each roe deer from values of the nitrogen content (see below) in each plant category and their proportions in the rumen, according to the following formula:

DN = ([n.summation over (i=1)] NiDi)/100,

where DN = dietary nitrogen concentration (% DM), Ni = nitrogen concentration in the plant category i (% DM) and Di = proportion of the plant category i in the rumen (% DM).

In addition, we classified each rumen sample as containing significant amounts of tannin or not, based on the concentration we measured in the plants used for the feeding trials and from the literature on the tannin contents in plants. In the literature, a concentration of CT > 5% DM is considered as high and concentrations ranging between 2 and 5% DM as moderate (Aerts et al. 1999, Barry & McNabb 1999). Low (1% DM) or trace (< 0.5% DM) concentrations are considered insufficient to affect protein digestion (Barry & McNabb 1999, Makkar 2003). For subsequent statistical analyses, we classified diets as containing no significant amount of CT when the proportion of plants with moderate or high tannin concentration amounted < 20% of the diet (approximately < 1% tannin in the whole diet). The remaining cases were considered as diets with significant amounts of tannins since they contained > 20% of moderately or highly tannic plants.

Feeding trials with captive animals

We used four captive and tame adult roe deer (one male: A and three females: B, C and D) raised in the 'Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chize (CEBC)' in France and habituated to feeding trials. Before and after the feeding trials, lasting from March to November 2005, the animals were raised together in an enclosure with both grass and trees. In addition to access to natural vegetation, including tannic plants, they were offered standard pellets for goats (Alicoop Proxima, 19.5% crude protein) ad libitum. During the feeding trials, the animals were kept separately in rooms (20 X 20 m) without access to natural vegetation. One additional captive roe deer, a tame adult female (E), raised on the INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique) farm of Gardouch (of the research laboratory Comportement et Ecologie de la Faune Sauvage (CEFS) in Toulouse, France) was tested for two diets (sorghum and wheat) in autumn 2009. Before the trial, the female was raised in a 0.5 ha enclosure together with two other females. In this enclosure they fed on natural pasture (forbs and grass) and had ad libitum access to pellets for roe deer (Toulgrain, La Toulousaine SA, Baziege, France). During the trial, the female E was restrained to a small part of the enclosure (15 X 10 m) where all vegetation had been removed.

Before the feeding trials, the animals were gradually habituated to feeding on experimental diets. During the feeding trials, they were offered the experimental diets and water ad libitum for seven days. The animals were weighed before and after the feeding trials and their intake was recorded daily; the quantity of food offered was adjusted so that only a small amount of food remained unconsumed each day. Fresh faecal pellets were collected each morning of the last four days of the trial, dried (48 hours at 60[degrees]C) and ground for analysis for tannin and nitrogen contents.

Eight diets known to be eaten by roe deer (Tixier & Duncan 1996, Tixier et al. 1997, Cornelis et al. 1999) and containing a range of tannin concentrations were tested (Table 1). Two diets contained only traces of CT: alfalfa Medicago sativa leaves (Barry & McNabb 1999) and wheat seeds (MacKown et al. 2008). Ivy Hedera helix, contained very little CT (our study and Gonzalez-Hernandez et al. 2003). Four other diets contained moderate to high concentrations of CT (our study): leaves of bramble, acorn (seeds of oak Quercus sp.), a mixture of leaves of field maple Acer campestre and clematis Clematis vitalba and a mixture of leaves of maple and oak. We did not measure the concentration of CT in the sorghum diet because the experiment was done later and in a different laboratory than the previous feeding trials. However, the sorghum grain we used (a mixture of FR2036, FR2041, FR2572 and FR2102 French lines) has red glumes and pericarp/testa that are typical of sorghum containing moderate to high concentration of CT (Dykes & Rooney 2006, Liu et al. 2009). The leaves of trees and shrubs were fresh plants collected daily in an adjacent forest and offered each morning. Acorns collected during the previous winter and frozen were offered daily after thawing. Alfalfa was offered as hay and sorghum and wheat seeds came from the Toulgrain company. Samples of each food were dried at 60[degrees]C for 72 hours and ground for analysis for tannin and nitrogen contents.

Tannin and nitrogen analysis

Both plant and faecal samples were analysed for nitrogen content using the Dumas method with a CN gas analyser (LECO Corporation, St Joseph, Michigan, USA). CT content was determined in foliage and acorn diets using the procedure described by Terrill et al. (1992). The CT were separated into three fractions. First, free CTs were extracted with a mixture of acetone, water and diethylether. Secondly, protein-bound CTs were extracted with a boiling solution containing sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS) and 2-mercaptoethanol. After these two extractions, the residue contained only fibre-bond CT. CT of these three fractions were then determined with a butanol-HCl colorimetric procedure. For preparation of standards, purified CT were extracted from the corresponding diet by chromatography on Sephadex LH-20.

Statistical analysis

We used linear mixed-effects (LME) models fitted by maximum likelihood to test the effects of season (four modalities) and sector (two modalities) on FN in the wild deer. FN may vary between years, but our sampling was unbalanced since not all seasons and sectors were sampled for all the years. Year was therefore set as a random factor to avoid the variance between years being included in the error term.

We used a linear model to test the effects of dietary tannins (as a bimodal factor) on the regression of DN (dependent variable) on FN (independent variable) in the wild deer. The full model included the interaction term 'tannin*FN'.

For the analyses of the feeding trials, we used LME models to test the effect of dietary tannins (again as a binary factor) on the regression of DN (dependent variable) on FN (independent variable). The identity of the individuals was included as a random variable to prevent the variance between individuals being included in the error term. We tested for the significance of slopes (the null hypothesis was that the slope equalled zero) for diets with and without tannins. For diets without tannin, we tested the equality of the slopes of the regression between DN and FN for wild and experimental animals using the Fisher procedure (Fisher 1921). The statistical analyses were done on RGui version 2.9.1 software, (R Development Core Team 2007).


Variation of FN in the wild roe deer

FN ranged between 1.5 and 5% DM. As expected, FN varied between seasons but differences were more pronounced in the open than the forest sector (interaction season*sector: L-ratio 10^84 = 9.9, P = 0.020). FN was higher in the open sector than in the forest one, especially in spring and autumn, and peaked in spring (Fig. 1).


The relationship between DN and FN in wild roe deer

Using the analysis of rumen contents, we found 15 diets, with different proportions of 12 plant categories in the rumens (Table 2). Using measures of the nitrogen content for each plant category, we estimated the DN, which ranged between 0.8 and 4.3% DM. The FN of the same animals ranged between 2.8 and 4.7%. From the results of our study, we know that acorn and bramble contained high levels of CT, but ivy contained very little (see Table 1). In addition, from the literature, we know that Asteraceae (Almeida-Cortez et al. 1999), Rosaceae (Gonzalez-Hernandez et al. 2003) and Geraniaceae (Okuda et al. 1992) contain moderate levels of CT. In contrast, the cultivated plants alfalfa, wheat, soya and maize are free oftannin. Of the 41 shot deer sampled, the great majority had diets dominated by tannic foods, principally acorns and brambles. Only five (12%) had diets with low tannin levels (see Table 2). Tannins had an effect on the relationship between DN and FN (interaction FN*tannin: FM7 = 7.3, P = 0.010; Fig. 2). DN was related to FN for diets without tannin (the slope was positive and significant: estimate = 1.38, SD = 0.5, P = 0.014), but not for tannic diets (slope estimate = -0.16, SD = 0.2, P = 0.433). The model explained 62% of the total variance (adjusted R2).

The relationship between DN and FN in feeding trials

During the first feeding trial with ivy, two animals (A and B) ate abnormally little (< 30 g DM intake per day) and had diarrhoea, so we decided to stop these two trials. Animal A recovered quickly, but, animal B did not, so it was not used in the following trials ( bramble , maple-oak and alfalfa feeding trials). DN in the different diets offered ranged from 0.8 to 3.5% DM and FN from 2.3 to 4.1% DM (see Table 1).



The effect of free CT on the relationship between DN and FN was highly significant (interaction tannin*FN: L-ratio = 52.5, Df = 3, P < 0.0001; Fig. 3). The slope of regression line predicting DN with FN was positive and significant for diets without tannin (estimate = 1.6, SD = 0.3, P < 0.0001), but non-significant for diets with tannins (estimate = -0.3, SD = 0.2, P = 0.102).

The slopes of the regressions between DN and FN for diets without tannin (1.38 for the wild animals and 1.60 for the experimental ones) were not significantly different (t = 0.3913, df = 95, P = 0.6965).


As expected, we found seasonal and spatial variations of FN in a wild population of roe deer. First, FN peaked in spring, an expected response to higher digestibility and protein content in the growing vegetation. Secondly, FN was higher in the open, farmland sector compared to forest, which again was expected since cultivated plants, are selected for high protein and benefit from fertilisation.

As expected, DN was positively correlated with FN in the wild roe deer only for tannin-free diets (maize, soya, alfalfa and other legumes). For tannic diets, there was no significant relation between DN and FN. Similar patterns were obtained experimentally with captive roe deer. Indeed the slopes of the relation between DN and FN were similar between wild and experimental deer (we cannot reject the null hypothesis of equal slope for diets without tannin). The data from both wild and captive animals clearly demonstrate that the relationship between DN and FN for individual roe deer is fundamentally changed when the animals eat diets containing significant amounts of CT. Because of the delay between food intake and excretion, we acknowledge that the faeces collected in the rectums of a hunted deer do not relate directly to its rumen content. However, roe deer have a short retention time (< 24 hours; Berhend et al. 2004) and use routinely only a few patches in their home range (Le Corre et al. 2008). Thus, we assume that the individuals had not changed their food resources fundamentally in the previous couple of days. Although our experimental design for the captive deer experiment involved only a small number of animals and a short habituation period, the similarity with the data obtained in the wild population is striking, suggesting that they are robust. Further, our results are consistent with other studies ofother ruminant species (Mould & Robbins 1981, Robbins et al. 1987, Nunez-Hernandez et al. 1992, Osborn & Ginnett 2001).

It could be expected that for tannic diets, FN would increase with the amount of free CTs. We have not enough data to test this prediction. However, our data suggest that FN is rather independent of tannin concentrations in the diet. Indeed maple-oak and maple-clematis diets had similar DN but oak contained more free CT than clematis. We expected higher FN for maple-oak diet, but obtained the reverse. In the same way, maple-clematis and bramble diets had almost equal DN, and bramble contained three times as much tannin as maple-clematis, but the FN values were not very different for the two diets. Thus, we agree with Heil et al. (2002) that the protein precipitating activity of tannins appears not to be closely related to their crude concentration in plants. It is very likely that different types of CTs in the different plant species have very different specificities for particular proteins, in relation to their molecular structure. Kaitho et al. (1997) also found that FN increased with increasing levels of dietary tannins in Menz sheep, but that additional variations due to tannin types occurred. Osborn & Ginnett (2001) and Makkar (2003) also stress that the effect of tannin is likely to vary between plant and animal species due to great diversity of tannin and the specificity of defenses in different herbivores.

The tannic diets producing greater FN are high energy diets (acorn and sorghum grain). This may be explained by stimulation of bacterial activity and the secretion of digestive enzyme in the rumen in high energy diets. Brown et al. (1995) also found interactive effects of dietary protein and energy on FN in white-tailed deer.

On a more general level, our results might appear to be contradictory, since we found seasonal and spatial variations of FN that follow expected variations of plant quality (as has also been found in other species; Leslie et al. 2008). We conclude that FN is not suitable for predicting individual, short term diet quality for browsers that ingest significant levels of tannin, but FN may, nonetheless, reflect broad seasonal and spatial patterns of diet quality at the population level in some circumstances. We suggest that this could be a matter of scale, both spatial and temporal scale. At the individual levels and on a short term basis, many factors related to the previous meal of a given individual may affect the measurement of FN at a given moment, such as DN and energy, the concentration of CT in the diet and the molecular type of tannin. However, at the population level and for longer time scales, daily and individual variations of diet composition will be buffered by persistent trends relative to food resource quality such as seasonal and habitat related factors.

To conclude, we suggest that using FN to predict individual diet quality in animals eating tannins is not usually possible because the relationship between DN and FN is affected by too many factors, like the nature of the tannins, which are not well understood at the moment. We suggest that FN, measured at the population level and in long term studies, may indicate important trends in temporal and/or spatial variation in diet quality in roe deer (Hewison et al. 2009). However, comparisons between sites (within the same population) must be done cautiously, because FN can respond very differently to different diet types, with different amounts and types of tannin. Thus, knowledge of the botanical composition of the diets will help to interpret FN variations correctly.

DOI: 10.2981/10-111

Acknowledgements--we would like to thank J.P. Chanal and the local hunting associations with the 'Federation Departementale des Chasseurs de la Haute Garonne' for permission to collect rumen samples from the animals they shot. We thank Emmanuel Serrano for assistance in collecting rumen samples. We thank numerous colleagues and students for their help in collecting plant and faecal samples, and we thank Mark Hewison, Nicolas Morellet and Sonia Said for useful discussions on the topic of this paper. Finally, we thank Editor in chief Anne Loison, Associate Editor Leif Egil Loe, Pierrick Blanchard and an anonymous referee for their helpful criticisms, which led us to improve this manuscript considerably.

Associate Editor: Leif Egil Loe

Received 15 October 2010, accepted 2 March 2011


Aerts, R.J., Barry, T.N. & McNabb, W.C. 1999: Polyphenols and agriculture: beneficial effects of proanthocyanidins in forages.--Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 75: 1-12.

Almeida-Cortez, J.S., Shipley, B. & Arnason, J.T. 1999: Do plant species with high relative growth rates have poorer chemical defences?--Functional Ecology 13: 819-827.

Andersen, R., Duncan, P. & Linnell, J.D.C. 1998: The European roe deer: the biology of success.--Scandinavian University, Oslo, Norway, 376 pp.

Barry, T.N. & McNabb, W.C. 1999: The implications of condensed tannins on the nutritive value of temperate forages fed to ruminants.--British Journal of Nutrition 81: 263-272.

Berhend, A., Lechner-Doll, M., Streich, W.J. & Clauss, M. 2004: Seasonal faecal excretion, gut fill, liquid and particle marker retention in mouflon Ovis ammon musimon, and a comparison with roe deer Capreolus capreolus.--Acta Theriologica 49: 503-515.

Benhaiem, S., Delon, M., Lourtet, B., Cargnelutti, B., Aulagnier, S., Hewison, A.J.M., Morellet, N. & Verheyden, H. 2008: Hunting increases vigilance levels in roe deer and modifies feeding site selection.--Animal Behaviour 76: 611-618.

Blanchard, P. 1998: Difference de survie entre sexes chez le chevreuil (Capreolus capreolus): la qualite du regime alimentaire peut-elle l'expliquer?--Rapport de DEA, University de Paris VI, France, 38 pp. (In French).

Blanchard, P., Festa-Bianchet, M., Gaillard, J-M. & Jorgenson, J.T. 2003: A test of long-term fecal nitrogen monitoring to evaluate nutritional status in bighorn sheep.--Journal of Wildlife Management 67: 477-484.

Brown, R.D., Hellgren, E.C., Abbott, M., Ruthven, D.C. & Bingham, R.L. 1995: Effects of dietary energy and protein restriction on nutritional indices of female white-tailed deer.--Journal of Wildlife Management 59: 595- 609.

Clauss, M., Lason, K., Gehrke, J., Lechner-Doll, M., Fickel, J., Grune, T. & Streich, W.J. 2003: Captive roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) select for low amounts of tannic acid but not quebracho: fluctuation of preferences and potential benefits.--Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology B Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 136: 369-382.

Cornelis, J., Casaer, J. & Hermy, M. 1999: Impact of season, habitat and research techniques on diet composition of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus): a review.--Journal of Zoology London 248: 195-207.

Dykes, L. & Rooney, L.W. 2006: Review. Sorghum and millet phenols and antioxidants.--Journal of Cereal Science 44: 236-251.

Fisher, R.A. 1921:Onthe 'probable error' of a coefficient of correlation deduced from a small sample.--Metron 1: 3-32.

Gonzalez-Hernandez, M.P., Karchesy, J. & Starkey, E.E. 2003: Research observation: Hydrolyzable and condensed tannins in plants of northwest Spain forests.--Journal of Range Management 56: 461-465.

Heil, M., Baumann, B., Andary, C., Linsenmair, K.E. & McKey, D. 2002: Extraction and quantification of condensed tannins as a measure of plant anti-herbivore defence? Revisiting an old problem.--Naturwissenschaften 89: 519-524.

Hewison, A.J.M., Morellet, N., Verheyden, H., Daufresne, T., Angibault, J-M., Cargnelutti, B., Merlet, J., Picot, D., Rames, J-L., Joachim, J., Lourtet, B., Serrano, E., Bideau, E. & Cebe, N. 2009: Landscape fragmentation influences winter body mass of roe deer.--Ecography 32: 1062-1070.

Hobbs, N.T. 1987: Fecal indices to dietary quality: a critique.--Journal of Wildlife Management 51: 317-320.

Hodgman, T.P., Davitt, B.B. & Nelson, J.R. 1996: Monitoring mule deer diet quality and intake with fecal indices.--Journal of Range Management 49: 215-222.

Holechek, J.L., Vavra, M. & Pieper, R.D. 1982: Methods for determining the nutritive quality of range ruminant diets: a review.--Journal of Animal Science 54: 363-376.

Kaitho, R.J., Umunna, N.N., Nsahlai, I.V., Tamminga, S. & Van Bruchem, J. 1997: Utilization of browse supplements with varying tannin levels by Ethiopian Menz sheep: 2. Nitrogen metabolism.--Agroforestry Systems 39: 161-173.

Kamler, J. & Homolka, M. 2005: Faecal nitrogen: a potential indicator of red and roe deer diet quality in forest habitats.--Folia Zoologica 54: 89-98.

Kariuki, I.W. & Norton, B.W. 2008: The digestion of dietary protein bound by condensed tannins in the gastro-intestinal tract of sheep.--Animal Feed Science and Technology 142: 197-209.

Le Corre, M., Pellerin, M., Pinaud, D., Van Laere, G., Fritz, H. & Said, S. 2008: A multi-patch use of the habitat: testing the First-Passage Time analysis on roe deer Capreolus capreolus paths.--Wildlife Biology 14(3): 339-349.

Leslie, D.M., Bowyer, R.T. & Jenks, J. 2008: Facts from feces: Nitrogen still measures up as a nutritional index for mammalian herbivores.--Journal of Wildlife Management 72: 1420-1433.

Leslie, D.M., Jenks, J.A., Chilelli, M. & Lavigne, G.R. 1989: Nitrogen and diaminopimelic acid in deer and moose feces.--Journal of Wildlife Management 53: 216-218.

Leslie, D.M. & Starkey, E.E. 1985: Fecal indices to dietary quality of cervids in old-growth forests.--Journal of Wildlife Management 49: 142-146.

Leslie, D.M. & Starkey, E.E. 1987: Fecal indices to dietary quality: a reply.--Journal of Wildlife Management 51: 321-325.

Liu, M.X., Wang, Y.W., Han, J.G. & Mao, P.S. 2009: The content and distribution of condensed tannins in different species of the genus sorghum (Sorghum Moench) and their effect on seed protein electrophoresis.--Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 89: 1446-1452.

MacKown, C.T., Carver, B.F. & Edwards, J.T. 2008: Occurrence ofcondensed tannins in wheat and feasibility for reducing pasture bloat.--Crop Science 48: 2470-2480.

Maizeret, C. & Tran Manh Sung, D. 1984: Etude du regime alimentaire et recherche du determinisme fonctionnel de la selectivity chez le Chevreuil (Capreolus capreolus) des Landes de Gascogne.--Gibier Faune Sauvage 3: 63-103. (In French).

Makkar, H.P.S. 2003: Effects and fate of tannins in ruminant animals, adaptation to tannins, and strategies to overcome detrimental effects of feeding tannin-rich feeds.--Small Ruminant Research 49: 241-256.

McSweeney, C.S., Palmer, B., McNeill, D.M. & Krause, D.O. 2001: Microbial interactions with tannins: nutritional consequences for ruminants.--Animal Feed Science and Technology 91: 83-93.

Min, B.R., Barry, T.N., Attwood, G.T. & McNabb, W.C. 2003: The effect of condensed tannins on the nutrition and health of ruminants fed fresh temperate forages: a review.--Animal Feed Science & Technology 106: 3-19.

Mould, E.D. & Robbins, C.T. 1981: Nitrogen metabolism in elk.--Journal of Wildlife Management 45: 323-334.

Nunez-Hernandez, G., Holechek, J.L., Arthun, D., Tembo, A., Wallace, J.D., Galyean, M.L., Cardenas, M. & Valdez, R. 1992: Evaluation of fecal indicators for assessing energy and nitrogen status of cattle and goats.--Journal of Range Management 45: 143-147.

Okuda, T., Yoshida, T., Hatano, T., Iwasaki, M., Kubo, M., Orimet, T., Yoshizaki, M. & Narushashi, N. 1992: Hydrolysable tannins as chemotaxonomic markers in the Rosaceae.--Phytochemistry 31: 3091-3096.

Osborn, R.G. & Ginnett, T.F. 2001: Fecal nitrogen and 2,6-diaminopimelic acid as indices to dietary nitrogen in white-tailed deer.--Wildlife Society Bulletin 29: 1131-1139.

Osborn, R.G. & Jenks, J.A. 1998: Assessing dietary quality of white-tailed deer using fecal indices: effects of supplemental feeding and area.--Journal of Mammalogy 79: 437-447.

Page, B.D. & Underwood, H.B. 2006: Comparing protein and energy status ofwinter-fed white-tailed deer.--Wild-life Society Bulletin 34: 716-724.

Putman, R.J. 1984: Facts from faeces.--Mammal Review 14: 79-97.

R Development Core Team 2007: R: A language and environment for statistical computing.--R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. Available at: (Last accessed on 17 March 2010).

Robbins, C.T. 1983: Wildlife feeding and nutrition.--Academic Press, New York, New York, USA, 343 pp.

Robbins, C.T., Mole, S., Hagerman, A.E. & Hanley, T.A. 1987: Role of tannins in defending plants against ruminants: reduction in dry matter digestion.--Ecology 68: 1606-1615.

Schwarm, A., Schweigert, M., Ortmann, S., Hummel, J., Janssens, G.P.J., Streich, W.J. & Clauss, M. 2009: No easy solution for the fractionation of faecal nitrogen in captive wild herbivores: results of a pilot study.--Journal ofAnimal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 93: 596-605.

Shimada, T. 2006: Salivary protein as a defense against dietary tannins.--Journal of Chemical Ecology 32: 1149-1163.

Silanikove, N., Perevolotsky, A. & Provenza, F.D. 2001: Use oftannin-binding chemicals to assay for tannins and their negative postingestive effects in ruminants.--Animal Feed Science and Technology 91: 69-81.

Terrill, T.H., Rowan, A.M., Douglas, G.B. & Barry, T.N. 1992: Determination of extractable and bound condensed tannin concentrations in forage plants, protein concentrate meals and cereal grains.--Journal ofScience and Food Agriculture 58: 321-329.

Tixier, H. & Duncan, P. 1996: Are european roe deer browsers? a review of variations in the composition of their diets.--Revue d'Ecologie (Terre et Vie) 51: 3-17.

Tixier, H., Duncan, P., Scehovic, J., Yani, A., Gleizes, M. & Lila, M. 1997: Food selection by European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus): effects of plant chemistry, and consequences for the nutritional value of their diets.--Journal of Zoology 242: 229-245.

Ueno, M., Nishimura, C., Takahashi, H., Kaji, K. & Saitoh, T. 2007: Fecal nitrogen as an index of dietary nitrogen in two sika deer Cervus nippon populations.--Acta Theriologica 52: 119-128.

Verheyden-Tixier, H. & Duncan, P. 2000: Selection for small amounts of hydrolysable tannins by a concentrate-selecting mammalian herbivore.--Journal of Chemical Ecology 26: 351-358.

Wehausen, J.D. 1995: Fecal measures of diet quality in wild and domestic ruminants.--Journal of Wildlife Management 59: 816-823.

Corresponding author: Helene Verheyden

Helene Verheyden, Lise Aubry & Joel Merlet, Comportement et Ecologie de la Faune Sauvage, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, BP 52627, F-31326 Castanet-Tolosan Cedex, France--e-mail addresses: (Helene Verheyden); (Joel Merlet)

Patrick Petibon, Agrosysteme et developpement territorial, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, BP 52627, F- 31326 Castanet-Tolosan Cedex, France--e-mail:

Beatrice Chauveau-Duriot, Unite de Recherche sur les Herbivores, Equipe Digestion Microbienne et Absorption, INRA Theix, F-63122 St Genes Champanelle, France--e-mail:

Nadine Guillon & Patrick Duncan, Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chize, F-79360 Beauvoir-sur-Niort, France--e-mail: (Patrick Duncan)
Table 1. Summary of the feeding trials performed with five captive roe
deer. Diet composition, date, animal, intake, dietary nitrogen, faecal
nitrogen and dietary free condensed tannin (% DM and levels: 0 when
[less than or equal to] 1% DM, 1 when >1% DM) are shown.

               Date, month                 Intake g DM,
Diet offered   and year           Animal   mean (SD)

Bramble        23-29.03.2005        A      110 (12)
                                    C      95 (27)
                                    D      110 (11)
Maple-         02-07.07.2005        A      175 (81) + 143 (45)
clematis                            B      65 (35) + 39 (4)
                                    C      69 (43) + 57 (31)
                                    D      219 (93) + 135 (33)
Maple-oak      08-16.07.2005        A      177 (63) + 147(35)
                                    C      31 (29) + 130(33)
                                    D      159 (84) + 143(31)
Acorn          16-22.11.2005        A      176 (70)
                                    B      137 (31)
                                    C      147 (70)
                                    D      235 (70)
Sorghum        23.11-03.12.2009     E      483 (193)

Ivy            15-21.03.2005        C      113 (52)
                                    D      133 (15)
Alfafa         02-07.04.2005        A      403 (4)

                                    C      394 (7)
                                    D      396 (11)
Wheat          22.09-02.10.2009     E      319 (116)

                                  Dietary nitrogen    Faecal nitrogen

                                        % DM,              % DM,
Diet offered        Animal            mean (SD)          mean (SD)

Bramble               A              1.95 (0.23)        3.19 (0.60)
                      C                                 3.12 (0.15)
                      D                                 2.99 (0.20)
Maple-                A              2.11 (0.11)        3.04 (0.20)
clematis              B              2.11 (0.15)        3.00 (0.14)
                      C              2.10 (0.10)        3.42 (0.14)
                      D              2.10 (0.13)        3.13 (0.07)
Maple-oak             A              2.13 (0.04)        2.55 (0.08)
                      C              2.10 (0.06)        2.66 (0.15)
                      D              2.13 (0.04)        2.39 (0.07)
Acorn                 A           0.8                   3.28 (0.28)
                      B                                 2.80 (0.12)
                      C                                 2.99 (0.08)
                      D                                 3.57 (0.47)
Sorghum               E                 1.45            4.06 (0.42)

Ivy                   C              1.39 (0.10)        2.34 (0.19)
                      D              2.45 (0.19)
Alfafa                A              3.52 (0.14)        3.45 (0.36)

                      C                                 3.33 (0.16)
                      D                                 3.06 (0.15)
Wheat                 E                 1.81            3.05 (0.32)

                        Dietary free            Tannin in

                        condensed tannin       diet levels
Diet offered   Animal   % DM, mean (SD)            1/0

Bramble          A      8.11                        1
Maple-           A      2.63 (0.33)                 1
clematis         B      2.83 (0.50)
                 C      2.65 (0.45)
                 D      2.89 (0.26)
Maple-oak        A      5.82 (1.50)                 1
                 C      2.42 (1.65)
                 D      5.47 (1.84)
Acorn            A      4.06                        1
                 B      Moderate (Dykes &
Sorghum          C      Rooney 2006)                1
                 D      0.87
Ivy              E                                  0

Alfafa           C      Trace (Barry &              0
                 D      McNabb 1999)

Wheat            C      Trace (McKown et al.        0
                 D      2008)

Table 2. Diet botanical composition (% of principal plants eaten),
dietary nitrogen and faecal nitrogen (% DM) by season and dietary
tannin level (0=low or absent, < 1% DM and 1 =moderate or high, > 1%
DM) in roe deer. Sample size is the number ofindividual roe deer. Diet
botanical composition was assessed by analysis of the rumen content.
The nitrogen content was estimated from the botanical composition of
the rumen and the nitrogen content of the plant eaten (see section
Methods). Au=Autumn, Wi=winter, Su=summer, ac= acorn, br = bramble,
ast = Asteraceae, pri = privet, ros = Rosaceae and ger = Geraniaceae.

         Dietary tannin   Diet botanical                     Sample
Season     level 0/1      composition                         size

Au             1          > 84% ac                             19
Au             0          70% soya, 18% br                      1
Au             0          78% soya, 12% maize                   1
Wi             1          > 91% ac
Wi             1          74% ac, 22% br                        1
Wi             1          82% ac, 12% ast                       1
Wi             1          > 86% br
Wi             1          64% br, 29% ivy                       1
Wi             1          79% br, 12% pri                       1
Wi             1          58% br, 13% pri, 10% ros              1
Wi             1          46% ros, 11% br, 11% ac, 11% ger      1
Wi             0          76% maize, 12% br                     1
Wi             0          77% other legume, 8% br               1
Wi             0          71% alfafa, 8% br, 6% ast             1
Su             1          45% ros, 39% wheat                    1
Su             1          88% br, 10% ivy                       1

         Dietary nitrogen,   Faecal nitrogen,
Season   mean (SD)           mean (SD)

Au       0.98 (0.07)         3.78 (0.49)
Au       399                 397
Au       430                 394
Wi       1.07 (0.02)         3.46 (0.40)
Wi       134                 276
Wi       126                 461
Wi       1.99 (0.02)         3.51 (0.14)
Wi       179                 317
Wi       185                 340
Wi       207                 340
Wi       311                 307
Wi       175                 291
Wi       262                 304
Wi       429                 301
Su       189                 417
Su       192                 373
COPYRIGHT 2011 Nordic Board for Wildlife Research
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Original article
Author:Verheyden, Helene; Aubry, Lise; Merlet, Joel; Petibon, Patrick; Chauveau-Duriot, Beatrice; Guillon,
Publication:Wildlife Biology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jun 1, 2011
Previous Article:Survival and cause-specific mortality of elk Cervus canadensis calves in a predator rich environment.
Next Article:Survey method choice for wildlife management: the case of moose Alces alces in Sweden.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters