2018-07-07 / Outdoors

Fawn study shows strong survival rate


Mother deer have learned to take care of the basics with their fawns and then separate themselves so that predators won’t be attracted. A recent study con­firmed strong survival rates among Pennsylvania’s fawns. Mother deer have learned to take care of the basics with their fawns and then separate themselves so that predators won’t be attracted. A recent study con­firmed strong survival rates among Pennsylvania’s fawns. Long-awaited results from a comprehensive study to determine how young deer are faring in Pennsylvania were made public last week by the Pa. Game Commis­sion

(PGC).

Investigators concluded that the state has a good and stable fawn survival rate, putting to bed the oft-repeat­ed speculation that increased coyote populations are deci­mating the deer population.

Three years of field study, 165 captured fawns and more than 200,000 trail- camera photos were among the exhibits taken into ac­count by the PGC and the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Penn State.

Christopher Rosenberry, who supervises the agency’s Deer and Elk Section, reported, “There was no evidence that predators were taking too many of our fawns in any of our Wildlife Management Units. They all have stable or growing whitetail populations.”

He said the study sup­ported the supposition that predators are the No. 1 cause of fawn mortality.

“More often than not, black bears are taking the fawns,” Rosenberry noted. “But fawn mortality is not causing deer population reductions anywhere in Pennsylvania.”

Consistent fawn survival, coupled with consistent adult deer survival – 90 percent of adult deer survive from one hunting season to the next – have been confirmed through recent research, Rosenberry added.

Following black bears in fawn predation are coyotes and bobcats.

In the three-year study, 82 fawns were captured and fit­ted with radio collars on the northern study area on the Susquehannock State Forest in Potter County. Another 83 fawns were captured and ra­dio collared on the southern study area, which included parts of the Rothrock and Bald Eagle state forests.

There were 44 mortali­ties on the northern study area: 33 from predators, six from humans and five from natural causes. Bears took 18 fawns; coyotes, eight; bobcats, two; and unknown predator, five.

Most mortality occurred over the first eight weeks of a fawn’s life.

The PGC said whitetails adjust to whatever advantage predators may gain by using behaviors to protect fawns. For example, in addition to using safer areas to raise fawns, does will spend time away from newborn fawns, only returning to feed a few times a day, so as to not at­tract the attention of preda­tors

Return to top