Effects of fall orphaning on white-tailed deer fawns

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

This study was conducted in the 826-hectare enclosure at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, Dublin, Virginia, and was designed to determine the effect of fall orphaning on white-tailed deer fawns (Odocoileus virginianus). Data were collected on: 1) the survival rate of fawns, 2) the location of home ranges, and 3) the association of fawns with other deer.

Twenty-one tagged fawns were orphaned in the fall by immobilizing and removing their mothers. Eighteen fawns were selected as controls. Data were recorded from July 1973 through March 1974, and included the location of the fawns and the number, sex, and age of associated deer.

Under the conditions of this study, fall orphaning did not have any influence on the survival of fawns. All of the fawns were alive at the conclusion of the study in March 1974.

The mean shift in center of activity was 233 meters for orphans without siblings, 206 meters for orphans with siblings, and 171 meters for controls.

Orphans with twins remained together while orphans without siblings sought the company of other deer and associated with a variety of family groups, orphans, and adult bucks. Shifts in centers of activity and association patterns with other deer indicate that orphaning causes a conflict between the need to remain in familiar territory and a desire to associate with other deer.