TownLine Motorsports CFMOTO PowerFest April-May 2024

THROUGH THE WOODS: Those cute little fawns

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By NANCY JANE KERN

Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

THIS IS THE SEASON of birth and some of our cutest new babies are the offspring of our Virginia white-tailed deer. Fall is the mating season and over the winter the doe, or female deer, carries the developing fawn. The gestation period for our deer is about six months and birth takes place in May to possibly June. The new fawns are able to walk right away. They are kept hidden, aided by the protective coloration of a coat of white spotted reddish hair. The doe spends her free time almost constantly eating grass to replenish body stores lost to the fawn and to have enough nutrients to produce milk. In a few weeks, the fawn is strong enough to follow its mother and can usually keep up with her.

The fawn’s greatest hazards are being killed by cars while crossing roads and being killed by dogs or predators like bobcats, and possibly the worst threat of all, hungry coyotes. I have actually seen coyotes following deer in the spring. I wondered if they follow a mother to find the fawn or follow her until she gives birth. At either point, the fawn could be grabbed and killed.

The female coyotes also have young and hungry pups that require a lot of meat. I usually find parts of fawns in my woods this time of year. It is sad, but everyone has to eat. Hopefully, a balance will be kept so predators do not exceed prey, and we do not see an excessive decline in our deer. The coyotes also eat many other animals including lots of field rodents.

I have several does with fawns around the house so they are now out of hiding. One doe has twins that are the cutest, and I see them for short periods of time and usually in my field. They can’t walk through the thick grass so they leap above it in spring-loaded bounces. One has already come right up to the back of the house. They are very curious. Mom is never happy about this and eventually, the wayward child returns to safety.

The doe and fawn in the photo were seen at a mown field in Ghent. Mom saw me with the camera and flew away across the field. Junior took off after Mom at an incredible speed. The little legs were almost a blur and it seemed a miracle they didn’t tangle. I believe this little one would have outrun a dog. Some accounts say a deer can reach speeds of 35 mph or more. To me, these pair were faster and quickly disappeared into the woods to safety. The fawn hoof prints are so tiny that maybe they leave less scent to be followed.

Last week a friend and I were driving along a Hillsdale dirt road and saw a doe getting a drink from a nearby brook. Beneath her was the tiniest little fawn searching mom for a drink of milk. We didn’t wait to see if it had success because we didn’t want to stress them.

In a few weeks, the fawns will start nibbling grass and soon be weaned. This relieves mom from the milk burden and both can start strengthening and fattening up for the winter. As fall approaches the deer start turning a grayish color as winter hair grows in. This is when the fawns gradually lose their spots and become the color of the mother. Another smaller adult deer may be seen near a doe and fawn and is probably a previous female fawn. These may stay with their mother for up to two years.

The mother will strike at the older offspring to keep them at a distance from the new fawn. Male fawns usually leave their mother by one-year-old. The best line of defense for the fawn is the sharp hooved very protective mother. They are very successful in attacking and driving off a predator.

Be aware of this if approaching a fawn because you could receive serious injuries. If you find a fawn do not touch it and quietly retreat. Enjoy watching them from a distance. They grow quickly, and I will be observing their progress over the coming months. I look forward to seeing some have fawns of their own.

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