It's a happy birth month here at Long Acres Ranch for the white-tailed deer! Most does give birth during the month of June after a seven month gestation period, and it’s always a treat to see the young fawns traversing the fields. Aside from being cute, there are plenty of reasons that the birthing season is fun and sparks wonder, especially about how these cute little animals survive their first months.
Mom Knows Best
Unlike some species, like bison or horses, white-tailed deer do not have their land legs right at birth. In fact, does hide their newborn fawns quickly after giving birth, which stay in their hiding spot for several days. The most activity happens when the does return to nurse or move the fawns. While mom is away, the fawns' beautiful spotted pattern helps to camouflage them within their surroundings. They also stay very still to hide from predators.
In addition to great camouflage, the newborn fawns do not have a strong scent which keeps predators at bay. Upon giving birth, does vigorously lick and clean all the birthing fluids off their fawns to reduce the odor. Additionally, fawns' scent glands aren’t developed fully, further protecting them from detection. Shortly after birth, mothers stay away many hours at a time to keep the young hidden and protected; however, where there is a fawn, mother is typically nearby and keeping a watchful eye on her fawn. She dare not spend too much time with her young fawn, for she may catch the eye of a hungry predator. To protect her young, the doe spends most of the first few weeks of her fawn's life at a distance.
Does typically have their first fawn at a year and a half old. Assuming that resources are available, she will have twin fawns each year until about six or seven years of age. Twin fawns are usually bedded separately, but often nurse at the same time. The does imprint on their young quickly, usually within 24 hours, and have a strong bond with their fawns. It takes a little longer for the fawns to imprint on the mothers; however once mobile, the young will follow mother constantly, acting as her shadow.
First Impressions Count
Fawns are impressionable and it is possible for them to imprint on other does that are not their mother. For this reason, does run off their yearling offspring prior to giving birth to their new fawns, and then separate themselves from their herd in a birthing area. Once the new young have imprinted and follow their mother, the does return to the herd. This is also one of the many reasons why it’s important to leave a bedded fawn alone, rather than trying to “rescue” it - it is possible for a fawn to imprint on a person instead of the mother, which is detrimental to the fawn.
Finding a bedded fawn is exciting, but can also be disconcerting if mom doesn’t seem to be anywhere around. As tempting as it is to approach them though, they are best viewed from a distance and have a higher survival rate if left alone. Even though they may seem to be abandoned, most of the time fawns are simply hidden and waiting for mom to return. Does won’t approach their fawns when people are present or in times of higher activity, so it’s best to snap a quick picture and then leave it be so the only one truly qualified to take care of it can: its mom.
- “Agrilife Extension Wildlife & Fisheries.” AgriLife Extension Wildlife Fisheries, wildlife.tamu.edu/wildlifemanagement/deer/. Accessed 28 June 2023.
“If You Find a Fawn, Leave it Alone.” Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, https://dwr.virginia.gov/blog/if-you-find-a-fawn-leave-it-alone/. Accessed 28 June 2023.
- Lee, Leonard. “The Most Important Week of a Fawn's Life.” Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, 3 June 2021, https://dwr.virginia.gov/blog/the-most-important-week-of-a-fawns-life/. Accessed 28 June 2023
“Penn State Deer-Forest Study.” Penn State Deer-Forest Study, 6 March 2015, https://www.deer.psu.edu/deer-dont-touch-that-baby/. Accessed 28 June 2023.
“TPWD: White-tailed Deer – Introducing Mammals to Young Naturalists.” Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/nonpwdpubs/introducing_mammals/white_tailed_deer/. Accessed 28 June 2023.
“White-tailed Deer — Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.” Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, https://tpwd.texas.gov/education/resources/texas-junior-naturalists/watching-wildlife/white-tailed-deer. Accessed 28 June 2023.
Williams, Scott C., et al. “White-tailed Deer Fawn Fact Sheet.” The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, 2016, https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/CAES/DOCUMENTS/Publications/Fact_Sheets/Forestry_and_Horticulture/WhiteTailedDeerFawnFactSheet2016pdf.pdf?la=en. Accessed 28 June 2023.