KANSAS DEER FAWNING OVER YOUNG
Public cautioned to leave young deer alone; mother is always nearby
PRATT -- Kansas outdoorsmen and women are seeing more deer fawns lately, and there's good reason: May and June are the primary deer fawning months in the Sunflower State.
The majority of fawns are born in late May and early June, following a gestation period of about 200 days. This indicates that the most does are bred from mid- to late November. However, some whitetail does younger than one year may breed for the first time in late winter, so many newborn fawns may be seen as late as July or even August. Whitetail does that breed before they are one year old usually give birth to a single fawn. After that, twins are the norm, and triplets are not uncommon.
Mule deer are less prolific. Mule deer does seldom breed before they are one and one-half years old, at which time they give birth to a single fawn. In succeeding years, twins are normally produced.
At birth, fawns weigh from 6 to 9 pounds. They are essentially scentless for several days. This helps protect them from their primary predators, which include coyotes and free-roaming dogs. Fawns remain relatively inactive for the first three or four days after birth. The spots they are born with serve as excellent camouflage during this period.
To avoid attracting predators, the doe intentionally stays away the fawn during this period. However, she always knows where her fawns are, and returns to nurse them four to six times a day.
Humans who find a fawn hidden in this way often assume that the fawn is lost or has been deserted. This is rarely the case. The doe is probably somewhere nearby hiding from sight and will return to care for the fawn once danger is past. Humans should leave these areas as soon as possible and leave the fawn undisturbed. They should not attempt to “rescue” the fawn because in all probability, the fawn does not need help.
Even if the young fawn runs from its hiding place, the doe will find it. If a fawn feels that it is lost, it will call to its mother. This call is described as a “bleat,” and a doe will respond to it from a surprising distance.
Fawns depend on their mother’s milk until approximately five weeks of age. At two to three weeks, they begin to forage on tender, new-growth vegetation such as grass, weeds, crops, and leaves. By the time a fawn is four months old, it is usually weaned from the doe’s milk but may travel with the doe throughout its first winter. As the next fawning season approaches, the doe may drive grown fawns from her home range, so she may again fawn in her own territory without intrusion.
Female fawns will often establish territories very close to, and sometimes overlapping, their mother’s territory. But the doe will seldom allow buck fawns to remain within her home range and will aggressively chase them when encountered.
Fawn survival in Kansas is probably most dependent upon predator densities and the feeding habits of those predators. Predation by coyotes varies widely across the state, and not all coyotes pursue deer with the same fervor. While Kansas coyotes have been observed taking adult deer and nearly grown fawns, many more coyotes have been observed in close proximity to deer without pursuing them. In regions of the state where short grasslands dominate the landscape, coyote predation seems to be highest.
For more information about deer in Kansas, visit the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us.