Bob Humphrey is the Biology & Deer Behavior field editor for Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine and holds similar titles with other major hunting publications.
He currently lives in Maine with his wife and two children. For more information about Bob, visit his website at www.bobhumphrey.com.
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They say a leopard can’t change its spots, but whitetail fawns definitely outgrow them. We know the spots help fawns blend in as a form of camouflage, but do they have any other significance? This week’s Ask the Biologist question takes a look.
QUESTION: I have been reading “The Yearling” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. The writer says several times that the pattern of a fawn’s spots is an indicator of a whitetail’s sex, spots being aligned for males and more random for females. Is that truth or myth? — Nicky
ANSWER: Like the book itself, the concept that you can tell the sex of a fawn by its spots is pure fiction. Without handling them, it is difficult to tell the sex of fawns, but it becomes easier as they get older. The top of a buck fawn’s head will appear slightly more flattened, while that of a doe appears more round. Of course, you need to have several deer present to recognize the difference. You also need to take into account variations in individual deer, which is why it’s not a very reliable indicator.