Survival and Spatial Ecology of White-tailed Deer Fawns

Project Overview:

As in many deer species, white-tailed deer neonates exhibit cryptic behavior until about 4 to 6 weeks of life.  Their main defense against predation is to bed down throughout the day and constantly change these “bed sites” to avoid detection by predators.  Considering the fact that white-tailed deer fawns lack developed scent glands during the first few weeks of age, it could be assumed that bed site selection (i.e., potential visual detection) is important when measuring survival.  Understanding spatial movements and bed site selection in fawns is important for wildlife professionals because it allows for better management of optimal habitat.  In general, neonates are good indicators of the overall health and sustainability of an animal population.

Research Objectives:

1.  Measure fawn survival and home range expansion over time.

2.  Document sex-specific behaviors of fawns specifically pertaining to differences in movement patterns and mortality rates between males and females

3.  Identify day and night time bed site locations during the first few weeks of life and from this attempt to classify vegetation characteristics at optimal bed sites which may positively influence survival.

Principle Investigator: Melinda Nelson