A (Fawn)tastic Start to Summer
You may have noticed that around this time of year, from mid-May through mid-June, white tailed deer fawns are springing up like weeds! Most does drop their fawns during this time, to “overwhelm” predators and increase fawns’ chances for survival. The Southwest Wisconsin Deer and Predator project, the largest deer project ever undertaken in Wisconsin, has just finished its first fawn capture season, resulting in 100 tagged fawns!
The basic approach to capturing fawns goes as follows: get as many people as possible to line up in fawn-y habitat (fields, open forests) and walk, nearly hand in hand, until you spot one. This proves much more difficult than it sounds. Fawns are incredibly well camouflaged, with white spots that blend seamlessly into leaf litter. Once a fawn is spotted, a DNR employee puts a blind fold on it (see image below), takes its weight, determines the age and sex, and fits the fawn with a VHF (very high frequency) collar and ear tag.
Once the fawns are released, after making the strangest noises reminiscent of a high pitch“MEH”, the fawns are tracked with telemetry equipment daily. The VHF collars are made of pleated material that stretch as the fawn grows and eventually falls off after about a year. The collar emits a frequency that can tell the researchers whether or not the fawn is still alive. The data will be used to gain a comprehensive understanding of deer population dynamics, including fawn survival and impacts of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
Some days we would hike 12 miles through swamp, raspberry bushes and cow manure without finding a single fawn. Those days were rough, but the deer crew was always upbeat and entertaining which made the entire experience worthwhile. A few bonuses included getting to know volunteers from all over the state and exploring southwestern Wisconsin’s rivers, valleys and bluffs.
If you would like to learn more about the deer and predator project, monthly updates are posted here.