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Whitetails and Fawn Survival

I saw a doe with two fawns last week. Now this is not cause for a major announcement, but it is of interest for a couple reasons. One, although the majority of adult female deer give birth to twin fawns, by this time of the year only one of them will have survived. And Two, the fawns were very small, only about beagle size, still heavily spotted.

Late births of fawns occur when a whitetail population is out of balance, when there are many more does than bucks. During the rut, the mature does come into season at about the same time and can be bred for a period of 30 to 48 hours. While a buck is glued to a doe during that time, there are other does which are in season and not being bred – there simply aren’t enough bucks to go around.

So about a month later, the does that haven’t been bred come into season again and also, in our area of Pennsylvania, about half of the “fawn” does are bred their first fall. The fawns I saw last week looked as if they’d hit the ground recently; possibly their doe was bred in the third round!

Let’s talk about twin fawns. The twins will develop from eggs that are individually fertilized; in fact, about 1 /4 of them will have different fathers. Why is it a fact of life that half of those twin fawns will have died by mid-summer? Well, there are many answers, predation by coyotes and black bears, and even death (struck by vehicle) of the doe. Fawns can die from being heavily stressed, such as being run/chased by dogs.

Do you think you know a lot about deer? Here’s a quick quiz:

1. Which are the only five states in the U.S. where the whitetail doesn’t live? Nevada, Utah, California, Hawaii and Alaska.

2. Which state has the highest population of whitetails? Texas.

3. How much did the heaviest whitetail ever taken weigh? Just over 500 pounds, Minnesota.

4. How rare is it for a female doe to have antlers? Only one in 10,000 has antlers.

5. Where in the United States can you find a concentration of white whitetails (not albinos)? Seneca Army Depot, Romulus, New York.

6. Which deer gland does not function in fawns, tarsal, preorbital, metatarsal, interdigital? To help keep them safe, the interdigital (hoof) gland doesn’t function until fawns are about 2 weeks old. This makes it more difficult for predators to track them.

7. Beginning with a mating pair of one buck and one doe, if both survived for 7 years, how many deer would the mating pair produce? 35

8. In a sprint, who would win, Secretariat, a deer, black bear or cheetah? The cheetah, fastest land animal at 70 mph. The three others can reach of top speed of about 35 mph for short distances. A whitetail can swim about 13 mph.

9. True or False - A whitetail doe will not have twins until the second time she is bred. True. Doe normally have one fawn the first time they give birth.

10. How fast can the antlers of deer grow? Antlers can grow ½ inch per day.

Here’s hoping that many of those young fawns grow until they reach maturity, with the males sporting a set of really nice antlers. And here’s hoping one of those nice bucks walk within shooting distance of a tree I am in this fall!

A buck’s antlers can grow an incredible 1/2 inch per day. Bucks with a great set of antlers are the result of genetics as well as good nutrition. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS