Ask The Biologist

Dog Gone

Dog Gone

By Bob Humphrey

Even with predator control, you might not see more fawns.

QUESTION: I am in a deer management cooperative with several other landowners. Part of the reason for forming it was that we were seeing a lot of predators, mostly coyotes, and there seemed to be a lot of does with only one fawn, or no fawns at all. Three years ago, we started an aggressive predator control program. Since then we are seeing fewer predators on our trail cameras, but there don’t seem to be more fawns. Is there something we should be doing different to boost our fawn numbers?

ANSWER: Predator control is a common and sometimes effective prescription for improving recruitment rates in local deer populations. However, several studies have shown that removing enough predators to make a difference requires intensive and continued effort, and even then may still be ineffective at increasing fawn survival. Furthermore, a recent Delaware study found similarly high fawn mortality rates even in the absence of predators. They suggested that fawn mortality from predation may be compensatory. In other words, it was a surplus that would have died anyway. You have several options as an alternative or supplement to predator control. One is managing habitat to provide better year-round nutrition, particularly in late winter and late summer, as well as providing more dense security cover to help fawns avoid being detected. While it can be difficult, selectively protecting mature does can also help, as they tend to be better at caring for their offspring.

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Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd