by Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
It’s hard to believe that the holidays are over and the New Year is here. But who would have thought that there would still be spotted fawns in January? The deer here in South Alabama still have a pretty good shot at surviving winter even though they are born very late, but they will always be a step behind the other deer in that generation. So why are some fawns conceived months later than others? Let me elaborate.
In Alabama, most conceptions take place in mid-late January through early March during the infamous rut and the doe gives birth 190-210 days later. Normally, fawns are dropped in summer months (June, July, and August) to give them plenty of time to “beef” up for winter. The dates are much narrower in the North because they actually have a winter and it is very important for conception dates to stay on track or many fawns will not survive. But we do not live in the North therefore conception and breeding dates are all over the place, unfortunately. Breeding is strongly correlated to day length and the hormone levels that begin to change with the amount of daylight. As testosterone picks up in bucks, they begin to seek out does that are in estrous and breeding takes place. But what if you have a skewed buck to doe ratio on your property? This is when you begin to see fawns dropping very late!
Mature bucks do most of the breeding in the herd, but when there are not many mature bucks, many does are not bred during the typical breeding season and experience multiple estrous cycles (every 28 days). For example, a doe that is not bred in January or February will continue to go into estrous and it is possible for her to become pregnant in June or July and therefore we have VERY late fawns dropping. Late dropped fawns face a disadvantage because there is not much green foliage on the ground and the temperatures can be brutal. Fawns dropped late are also more vulnerable to predation because many of the predators’ food sources are scarce as well.
Late fawns almost never reach their optimum potential. From the day they are born, they are physically behind the rest of the herd and never seem to catch up. Studies show that buck fawns that are born late almost never reach their full antler or body growth due to the poor nutrition they are born into. As most of us know, February and March can be the coldest months in Alabama and we can even experience snow. Fawns that are only weeks old during these months really have no chance at finding readily available food. Furthermore, fawns born late this year are at an extreme disadvantage due to late food plots that were almost instantly wiped out by freezing temperatures. The little nutrition that did come up is most likely wiped out or it is flooded as of two days ago.
I tell you that to tell you this: it is very important to maintain a healthy buck to doe ratio on your property. An unhealthy herd leads to more unhealthy herds and the vicious cycle continues. This is part of the push behind the mandatory game check…the State is trying to localize deer hunting regulations to protect the status of the deer herds from Lauderdale County all the way down to Baldwin County. They cannot do that without hard data taken from the local herds in these areas. It is very important to report all harvests to the state and if you believe your deer herd ratios are out of whack, get a biologist to help you out!
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