Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on June 26, 2018

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June Column

 

Editor’s note – Anyone wishing to ask a question can send inquiry to the Deer Tracker at: rgbernier@gmail.com

 

Q – What is the approximate time it takes a doe to birth her fawn and when in the spring does this routinely happen? B.A. – Meredith, NH

A – A female deer can actually be in labor from 24 to 48 hours. Like human expectant mothers, the duration of the labor process fluctuates for each individual doe. Once birthing begins she will frequently rise and bed as the fawn begins its descent down the birth canal. The first visible clue to her fawn’s arrival is the emergence of the neonate’s front hooves. Appearing next will be the fawn’s head. At this point the doe will aggressively push, grunt and strain to get the infant’s shoulders out. Once this is accomplished – no small task as the forequarters of the fawn is the widest – the rest of the fawn will easily slide outby its own weight.

 

 

Within seconds of her fawn hitting the ground, the doe will direct all her attention on removing the amniotic sac, freeing the fawn’s airway and enabling it to take its first breath of air. As the baby deer begins voluntarily moving, the mother vigorously licks the amniotic fluid from its spotted rusty coat. It is not until the fawn is completely cleaned off and is attempting to take its first wobbly steps that she will resume attending to her own needs. She will reach around with her mouth and pull the remaining placenta from the birth canal and consume it. The doe then will ingest all the remaining after birth including what’s on the ground where any fluids spilt.

This entire process takes approximately two hours and fluctuates by only a few scant minutes whether she births triplets, twins or a single fawn.

The timing of spring deliveries is based entirely on when the doe was bred the previous fall. A whitetail doe’s gestation period is between 195 and 202 days. Seventy-to-eighty percent of each spring’s fawn crop will be birthed during a 14-day period.

 

Q. – How often does a newborn fawn feed and what prevents it from crying when it is hungry?

C. W. – Bar Harbor, ME

 

 

A. – A newly born fawn feeds on its mother’s milk that contains 12 percent butterfat approximately 4-to-6 times per 24-hour period. A fawn will gain 10 percent of its birth weight during the first week and an additional 5 percent for each subsequent week thereafter. It is vital that the newborn remain motionless while out of the sight of its mother. Inherently, a fawn knows that until summoned by the voice of its mother, it does not move. And unlike human infants who will cry whenever they are hungry, a fawn remains silent to ensure that predators are not alerted to its position. Directly following a feeding, the doe’s udder begins to fill back up with milk, and once it reaches capacity, she begins to feel discomfort and seeks to feed her fawn.

 

Q – Although not so pleasant for us, I’ve heard that a wet spring is actually beneficial for whitetails. Is there any truth to this?
O.C. – Bridgeport, CT

A – Springtime is a period of new beginnings. Rainwater helps melt away the snow and greatly influences the resurgence of green plant life. For the whitetail there is no season of the year when the demand for high-energy food is any greater. Does rebounding from winter require this to facilitate carrying healthy fawns to full term. Bucks, who have all but depleted every ounce of body fat, gorge themselves on the first available greenery they can find.

 

 

The real bonus to a wet spring, particularly following a mild winter, is the energy the plant life provides. For males, these nutrients are quickly transferred into growing antlers. Any time we are blessed to have an early, wet spring you can count on bigger and better antlers on the bucks come autumn.

 

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