"Tooth Ring" Aging Provides Important Data in New Jersey

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Age data for New Jersey deer is commonly collected by Fish and Wildlife staff, who age deer by examining tooth eruption and wear on deer brought to check stations on high volume days. In deer management zones with small deer harvests, it has been logistically difficult to collect enough age data for deer in those zones since relatively few deer are brought to check stations on any given day.

In an effort to collect adequate deer age data for zones with small total harvests, Fish and Wildlife's White-tailed Deer Research Project asked hunters in those zones to submit a single tooth from harvested deer. The collection of tooth samples was coordinated through county chapters of the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs during the 2008-2009 deer hunting season.

Deer ages were determined from the teeth submitted through a process called cementum annuli aging. Much like annual growth rings formed in the wood of trees, animal teeth have an annular ring pattern of cementum growth. The cementum rings are clearly visible when very thin cross sections of decalcified teeth are subjected to a staining process. The New Jersey samples were analyzed by Matson's Lab. More information on cementum aging can be viewed on their website at http://matsonslab.com/html/Techniques/CementumAging/CementumAging.htm.

Deer age data is an important component in formulating and evaluating deer management strategies. The deer teeth submitted by hunters during the 2008-09 deer seasons provided valuable data and the Division of Fish and Wildlife is grateful to the organizations and hunters that provided the tooth samples.

Listed below are the organizations that coordinated the sample collections and the number of teeth hunters submitted to them.

  • Atlantic County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs - 75
  • Bergen County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs - 1
  • Burlington County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs - 12
  • Cumberland County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs - 20
  • Monmouth County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs - 11
  • Ocean County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs - 7
  • Morris County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs - 16