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Volunteers needed to locate fawns in next research project step

From the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

-- Dozens of volunteers assisted Wisconsin's wildlife researchers capture and place radio-collars on 204 deer in February and March. Now, volunteers are needed to help locate fawns born to does fitted with the implant radio transmitters designed to signal when fawns have been born in late May and early June.

"With the whitetail birthing season coming, volunteers are again needed to sweep the woods looking for the newborns," said Chris Jacques, research scientist. "When located, fawns will be fitted with expandable radio collars so we can follow them through their first year of life to determine causes of death whether it be due to nutrition, environment, vehicle, hunters or predators. This is real hands-on field research."

Some hunters have questioned assumptions about fawn recruitment used by wildlife biologists for estimating deer populations. Recruitment is the net addition of new individuals (fawns) to a population each year, and is an important input in estimating deer population numbers. At the end of the three-year effort to monitor fawns, researchers hope to fine tune their inputs based on real-world data collected in this research effort.

Volunteers will be assigned to search teams working in the vicinity of Shiocton in Shawano County and Winter in Sawyer County.

When transmitters have been expelled (presumably when a fawn has been born), a search team will form a line and comb the woods, somewhat similar to a deer drive, in search of bedded fawns. Newborns will be quickly fitted with a radio collar of their own and left for the doe to raise normally.

If the fawn dies, the collar will emit a unique signal that researchers will again use to locate the animal to determine cause of death. The collars are designed to expand as the deer grows and will eventually drop off as the animal approaches its first birthday.

"Determining causes of death in fawns is vital to the accuracy of our deer population estimates," Jacques said. "Of special interest is the impact of predators on fawn deaths. We have a suite of predators in Wisconsin we suspect impact yearly fawn production, including black bear, bobcat, coyote and gray wolves. What we are less certain of are the relative roles each of those predators plays on fawn recruitment over the course of an entire year."

He stresses this work is possible only with the assistance of dozens of volunteers.

"Anyone who has looked for newborn fawns or been startled to discover a fawn lying motionless in the forest or field next to them knows what a challenge it is to find them," says Jacques. "They have excellent natural camouflage and instinct to remain absolutely still when approached. The transmitters will give us a better idea of where they are, but it will still take time on the ground to locate them."

To sign up as a volunteer go to the Deer Research page of the DNR website at http://dnr.wi.gov/org/es/science/wildlife/deer/.  For more information contact Chris Jacques at (608)221-6358 or Bob Manwell at (608)264-9248.

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