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Friday, 2 August 2013

Judging a Deers Age by it's Teeth

Many skills which we asociate with bushcraft are still very much in use in the land management industries, with a backround in game and deer management this is one skill which I teach to my countryside management students which might be intersesting to those of you with an interest in tracking and ecology.

It's quite common to find animal remains in the woods and this is a method you can use to judge the approximate age of a deer from it's teeth. 

This is part of the collection of lower jaw bones from a range of deer found localy which I use to help students learn how to identify the age of deer. Most of these jaws are from Chinese water deer but the second from the top is from a year old roe doe and the bottom fragment is from a muntjac buck. The way to estimate the age of a deer is is to look at the eruption of the teeth, discouting the incisors at the front of the jaw, most of which are missing in these photos, each lower jaw in an adult deer should have six teeth.

The rule is simple; if all the molars (the three rearmost teeth) are not erupted and the third premolar (the third tooth from the front) has three cusps the deer is juvenile.

A three cusped juvenile pre-molar

A partially erupted molar, is this deer an adult?

As a guide roe deer should have all their adult teeth, ie six teeth on each side of the lower jaw and a two cusped pre-molar by 13 months of age, Chinese water deer and muntjac mature slightly faster and should have all these teeth shortly before they are 12 months of age.

A full set of adult teeth, notice the third premolar only has two cusps and all molars are fully erupted.
 Trying to judge the age of adult teeth is harder, the wear and tear on the teeth gives an indication of age but this depends on a deers diet and local conditions.

lightly worn teeth, notice the molar to the extreme right is not fully errupted (this is a juvenile deer)

Heavy wear on a full set of adult teeth. notice how the cusps of the teeth are almost completely worn away, this indicates that this deer was much more mature.

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