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Tooth Extractions From
Live-captured White-tailed Deer

Results and Discussion

During 1977-1999, assistants and I collected canines from 343 live-captured white-tailed deer. We recaptured 26 of the animals an average of 2 weeks later and noted no healing problems associated with previous tooth extraction. We recaptured an additional 29 deer a mean of 3 years after extraction; all appeared to have normal gum tissue at the extraction site, and the adjacent teeth seemed normal. More than 90% of the deer with canines extracted survived and were radiotracked for >1 additional year. Wolves (Canis lupus) killed those deer that died earlier, and there was no behavioral or anatomical evidence suggesting that tooth extraction predisposed deer to predation. Thus, the trauma of tooth extraction was superficial and temporary. Because of the lateral position and diminutive size of the canine, it requires only minor surgery for extraction, which aids in rapid healing. Furthermore, the size and morphometry of the canine suggests it has only a minimal role in biting function and therefore its contribution to survival is probably minor.

Although it is not necessary, I have occasionally used fresh wolf-killed or road-killed deer to teach tooth extraction to assistants before they handle live deer. Certainly, if both canines and an I3 are broken in a first extraction, the trainee should perfect the technique on a recently killed deer before the next tooth extraction on a live deer.

I did not attempt tooth extraction without anesthesia; however, tooth extraction using a local anesthetic has been successful on physically restrained elk (Cervus elaphus) (L. D. Mech, personal communication) and presumably would be similarly successful on restrained deer.

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