Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on June 4, 2019

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June Column

 

 

Editor’s note: Anyone wishing to send a question for future “Ask The Deer Tracker” posts can e-mail it to, 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.B. – Littleton, NH

A – A female deer can actually be in labor for 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 with 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 its widest point – the rest of the fawn will easily slide out by its own weight.

 

 

Within seconds of her fawn hitting the ground, the doe will direct all of her attention to 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 all of 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, will she begins 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 of the remaining after birth including licking the ground where any fluids spilt.

This entire process takes approximately 2 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. – We have been educated that it is never a good idea to assume a fawn has been abandoned by its mother simply because it is alone. However, I have heard a fawn crying, making sounds that seem like it is either in trouble, has lost its mother or is afraid. When this transpires would it be safe to believe the mother has been killed or is reluctant to take care of her baby and the fawn should be rescued through human intervention?
B. C. – Windham, ME

A. – Based upon the response to the previous question, it should always be assumed that mother is never far away. Other than extreme circumstances of poor mothering skills or death of the mother, a fawn should never be removed from its environment. Understand the bawling of a fawn deer does indeed evoke strong paternal instincts to the hearer. After all, who of us could conscionably ignore the cries of a baby? However, similar to a baby’s cry where it is not immediately understood as to what is perpetuating its displeasure, fawns will bawl for a variety of reasons. The most dramatic and high-pitched of the fawn’s vocalizations is the distress call. This can be heard from quite a distance and will usually beckon not only the fawn’s mother to come running, but any other doe within the vicinity to investigate. Remember, whitetail fawns are hiders and in order to maintain anonymity their best defense to remain motionless and quiet.

 

 

It has been my experience that a fawn will bawl for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is when it feels threatened or is actually in eminent danger from a predator. At this point the fawn will bawl repeatedly. Another cause for a fawn to cry is when it has been displaced from its mother. If something has happened to the mother or if she is detained from returning to nurse on schedule, the fawn may begin to utter hunger cries. The hungrier it becomes the louder it wails. Unless something out of the ordinary has occurred with the mother, her feeding schedule is quite regimented as her mammary glands fill up with milk causing her discomfort. By understanding and being able to identify why and when a fawn may bawl should help anyone to determine if indeed the fawn is actually an orphan.

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 or is it just another one of those proverbial “wives’ tales”? – A.C. – New Haven, 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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