Have you ever wondered why you can buy lamb and veal in a restaurant, but not fawn? After all, they’re all young and tender mammals. Actually, the thought of killing young deer for commercial food nauseates me so much that I can barely write these words. The reason we have such an abundance of deer in the United States is that hunters and conservationists care about wild animals. Even though we hunt them in the fall, wild creatures deserve to grow up and mature enough to outsmart us as mature adults (if they can). Unfortunately, predators don’t see things this way; they pick on the youngest animals first because they’re easy prey. Bears, coyotes, foxes, and other predators keep fawn survival at risk.
What’s happening in your deer herd? Are you having a fawn mortality problem? Will Gilsby and Dr. Karl Miller tell you three ways to find out in this post from the QDMA.
Over the last decade, predators, especially coyotes, have greatly altered deer population dynamics in many parts of the country by reducing fawn recruitment (the number of fawns per doe that survive to 6 months of age). Not surprisingly, the level of their impact varies from one state to another, and often even from one property to another.
Results from several Midwestern and Northeastern studies indicate that coyotes are responsible for taking, on average, 10 to 20 percent of fawns. This level of fawn predation likely has minimal impact on the overall recruitment rates, particularly in highly productive herds. However, other studies of coyote predation rates, particularly in the Southeast, suggest that coyotes may take a greater toll. Several studies have reported that fawn recruitment rates have dropped from a historic average of 0.9 to 1.2 fawns recruited per doe to 0.4 to 0.5 or less. This equates to a decrease of more than 50 percent in deer herd productivity and certainly has important implications for harvest management, particularly doe-harvest goals.