By the Site Ecology Team (SET) and Wildlife and Industry Together (WAIT)
May 1, 2015
As you may recall, white-tailed deer were in rut last fall (mid-October into November). This period marked the start of a new beginning. Now with May already here, the end of the deer’s gestational period has come.
Both males (bucks, stag) and females (does) reach maturity by 1.5 years. Females can breed earlier but the outcome is considered good if one fawn survives. Once mature, does can fawn yearly, producing 1-4 fawns, (2 is most common) until the female dies. In the wild, males on average live 2-5 years while females 3-6 years. Since bucks are polygamous, does with large litters have often bred with multiple males. Animal nutrition plays an important part in both litter size and fawn health.
At birth, the fawns have no odor and will be able to move around within hours. This is good, for the mother needs to move them away from the birthing site. The fawn’s spots help them blend into their surroundings, allowing it to “hide”. It is common for the fawn to be left alone while the female browses. She returns to nurse then leaves to feed. People sometimes come upon a fawn and believe it to be lost or abandoned. Wrong! Most of the time, the female may just be out of sight and people put themselves in harms way by approaching young animals. The instinct to protect young is very strong in deer and they should be allowed more space during fawning season. In other words, that’s NOW. Although the fawns could be weaned after 4 months, they will stay with their mother for the first year (teenagers).
If a fawn is in obvious danger on campus, contact the NIEHS Security Office at 919-541-7515 who will relay that information to the Institute veterinarians and they will respond and take the appropriate action. It is illegal to remove a fawn from the wild.
It’s not unusual to see a fawn near Discovery Lake walkway or lying near the sidewalk between the South Parking Lot and the Building 101. Please exercise caution so we all can enjoy deer sightings without an adverse incident.