A Fawntastic Season
I was with a school group walking along a field looking for common inhabitants such as insects or basking snakes when we were pleasantly surprised by a fawn! This tiny white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, could not have been more than a week old. It was tucked into a ball, eyes squeezed shut, willing us to pass without seeing it. In fact, other groups had walked right past even though it lay only three feet from the path in tall grass. Their reddish-brown fur and white spots do wonders to help predators overlook them as part of the landscape. At around five months old, the fawn’s spots will fade away as the fawn grows and sheds into its winter coat. Incredibly, they begin walking within a couple hours of being born. The majority of their first three weeks are spent bedded down stealthily hiding, except to nurse. So please ignore the urge to pet or cuddle the heart-meltingly cute animal. Mom usually stays within 100 yards to keep an eye on her young, listening for the fawn’s alarm call (known as a bleat) in the chance of fending off predators. In addition to moving her fawn often, the doe will lick her fawn to help maintain their mostly scent-free coat. Mothers even eat the placenta at birth and sometimes the fawn’s feces in order to remove scents that may attract predators-talk about motherly love! Fawns begin eating vegetation and are able to keep up with mom at around one month old. They quickly change from relying on camouflage to actively escaping predators by sprinting or leaping. Coyotes are the number one predator of fawns in Ohio. As the circle of life would have it, coyote pups are born in April/May, and fawn is often on the menu. Surviving fawns will stick with mom throughout the first winter. Males either become independent and leave voluntarily or are kicked out around one year to join other young bucks. Females stay with mom for about two years until they start their own family. A doe’s first breeding year typically produces one fawn, but with the right nutrition, each year after produces twins or triplets! It’s no wonder we have an overpopulation of white-tailed deer, but fawns are just too gosh darn cute to not appreciate.