Investigating variation in third-party intervention behavior during a fallow deer (Dama dama) rut

Dómhnall J. Jennings*, Richard J. Boys, Martin P. Gammell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Pairwise contests are frequently disrupted by the intervention of third-party group members. However, little is known about whether an individual’s engagement in intervention behavior varies over time, or what factors might be associated with such variation. Using a hierarchical “hurdle” model with 2 levels, we investigated the conditions under which focal males: 1) would or would not engage in an intervention, and 2) varied the number of interventions per day they engaged in. The lower level of the model showed that the proportion of unique opponents per day (estimated from the overall number of mature males in the herd) that focal males competed with, and the number of interventions suffered by a focal male were associated with an increased probability that this individual would itself engage in third-party intervention behavior. At the upper level of the model, there was no association between these 2 variables and the rate at which individuals engaged in intervention behavior. The number of matings observed per day and aggression rate within the herd failed to contribute meaningfully to either level of the model. We also show that, although inconsistent over days and between years, some individuals displayed a greater propensity to intervene than others. The data from our study show that intervention behavior is more likely to occur as a result of individual directly experiencing aggressive behavior at a sufficiently high level, and not as a result of individuals monitoring aggressive or sexual activity in the wider social group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-293
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number1
Early online date19 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to extend our thanks to colleagues at the Mammal Research Group at University College Dublin for their help in the field. We would also like to thank the anonymous referees for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology. All rights reserved.


  • Aggression
  • Bayesian statistics
  • Fallow deer
  • Hierarchical hurdle model
  • Matings
  • Third-party intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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