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Buck Fawns and New Territories

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: When fawns leave their mothers, do buck fawns generally stay in the area or leave to find their own territories? I've heard it's best to shoot the mother before the fawns are pushed away in order to keep the buck fawns in the same area. - Matt C.

Buck Fawns and New TerritoriesANSWER: As with most such things, the answer is seldom clear and distinct.

According to one study, about 25 percent of buck fawns will be kicked out of their mother's home range by their second spring. The rest will leave in the fall, as yearlings.

Another study found free-ranging, orphaned buck fawns had higher survival rates and lower emigration (dispersal) rates than un-orphaned male fawns. This suggests the two factors were related.

Without a mother to drive them out, orphaned buck fawns might stick close to their natal home range where they have better knowledge of escape cover and potential dangers.

However, the mechanism for yearling buck dispersal is not clearly understood. It was once believed it was exclusively the mother that ran them off. 

A more recent study suggests aggressive interaction between bucks may play a greater role than was once thought. 

Meanwhile, yet another study found orphaned fawns had smaller home ranges and lower survival rates than un-orphaned fawns.

Given all that, there is probably a higher likelihood an orphaned buck fawn will remain in or near its natal home range, at least until the rut. 

Yearling buck dispersal is nature's way of spreading genetic material.  Whether it's wanderlust or increased aggression from other deer, most young bucks will ultimately pack up and leave home.

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