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Open AccessCommunication

Progesterone and Cortisol Levels in Blood and Hair of Wild Pregnant Red Deer (Cervus Elaphus) Hinds

Department of Veterinary Medical Sciences, University of Bologna, 40064 Ozzano dell’Emilia (BO), Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Authors equally contributed.
Animals 2020, 10(1), 143;
Received: 26 November 2019 / Revised: 13 January 2020 / Accepted: 14 January 2020 / Published: 16 January 2020
The red deer, also known as the royal deer or European deer, is an artiodactyl mammal belonging to the Cervidae family, widely diffused in almost all of continental Europe. At the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, the mating season begins. The males of red deer, called stags, are synchronized with the females, called hinds; indeed, at the beginning of the mating season, they show a marked increase in testosterone to match the hinds’ estrus cycle. Gestation lasts about 230 days, so that calves are born in mid to late spring, the most favorable period for their survival. Scientific data on the reproduction physiology of this peculiar species in wild conditions are lacking, including hormonal variations during pregnancy. The present study describes mean levels of two critical hormones, cortisol and progesterone, in both blood and hair of wild pregnant red deer hinds. Correlation analysis confirmed how animals hunted in later phases of pregnancy have higher hair progesterone.
The red deer (Cervus elaphus L., 1758) is one of the largest deer species in the world. Females are seasonal polyestrous, with negative photoperiod: the increase of the night peak of melatonin determines the secretion of GnRH and, therefore, LH and FSH. To date there is little information regarding the hormonal control during pregnancy for this species; this could be due to the difficulty of sampling wild subjects, while farmed animals’ hormonal concentrations may not reflect the physiology of the animal in a natural state. In this study we evaluated the concentration of cortisol and progesterone, extracted from blood and hair, on 10 wild and pregnant red deer females. Belonging to the population of the Bolognese Apennines (Italy), the hinds were sampled in the January–March 2018 period, according to the regional selective hunting plan. Plasma progesterone (P4) ranged from a minimum of 1.9 to a maximum of 7.48 ng/mL; while hair P4 concentrations varied from 41.68 to 153.57 pg/mg. The plasma and hair cortisol ranges are respectively 0.4–2.97 ng/mL and 0.03–0.55 pg/mg; the only significant correlation was found between hair concentration of P4 and the date of death. The results of this preliminary study represent a small step towards a better knowledge of this species’ physiology during pregnancy. View Full-Text
Keywords: red deer; hind; reproduction; progesterone; cortisol; hair red deer; hind; reproduction; progesterone; cortisol; hair
MDPI and ACS Style

Ventrella, D.; Elmi, A.; Bertocchi, M.; Aniballi, C.; Parmeggiani, A.; Govoni, N.; Bacci, M.L. Progesterone and Cortisol Levels in Blood and Hair of Wild Pregnant Red Deer (Cervus Elaphus) Hinds. Animals 2020, 10, 143.

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