Overhunting of red deer (Cervus elaphus) in eastern Switzerland led to its extinction in the second half of the 17th century. Natural recolonization must have taken place later, because red deer were seen again in the canton of the Grisons (eastern Switzerland) in the 1870s. According to historical data, three different populations could have served as the source population. To determine the genetic origin of the eastern Swiss red deer population, we collected samples from five different subpopulations in the canton of the Grisons as well as from four adjacent populations in Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, and Italy. We analyzed the samples by genotyping 18 microsatellite loci. F(ST) values, assignment tests, correspondence analysis, and fuzzy clustering clearly pointed to Liechtenstein as the most probable source population for the red deer in eastern Switzerland. In addition, our analyses revealed high gene diversity in all examined populations. Gene flow and the high genetic admixture are discussed.
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