The Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, together with hunters, has developed a computer programme that can be used to estimate the age of red deer. The focus is on the external features of the lower jaw. The origin of the animal and the signs of wear of the lower jaw are entered into the programme. This programme achieves a correct determination of the age group in up to 95% of the cases.
However, to determine the exact age, Mitchell's cement zone analysis is used. The first molar from the lower jaw is used, as this is already present in the first year of life as a permanent tooth in deer. The M1 is first removed from the lower jaw using a bone saw and then cut lengthwise into 0.1-0.5 mm thick slices with a 0.4 mm thick diamond cutting disc. These individual discs can now be viewed under a microscope to determine the age. You look at the dental cement that is deposited between the roots of the teeth throughout life. The cut is divided into light summer lines and dark winter lines. In winter, metabolic activity is greatly reduced, which is why deposition takes place more slowly, and denser, darker lines appear. In summer these lines are less dense and also lighter and wider. The lighter summer lines are counted, just like the growth rings on a tree, and tell us the exact age of the animal. Tooth grinding is always evaluated according to the four-eyes principle. This procedure is routinely practiced at the FIWI and thus makes an important contribution to the clarification of disputes but also to self-regulation.
The Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology offers tooth grinding according to the Mitchell method at a price of EUR 55 (plus shipping EUR 5 within Austria and EUR 10 abroad).
For up to 10% of red deer mandibles, the cementum zones on the M1 are not seperated distinctly enough for differantiation and thus make counting impossible.
You can download a 30 day trial version of the computer programme, for the full version please contact the Lower Austrian Hunters´Association (Niederösterreichischen Landesjagdverband).
Service page of the NÖJV