doe with VHF collar in woods

In September 2014, we published our first blog post. Ah, the good old days when getting blog ideas was easy. Almost a decade later, we’re writing about osteophagia and counting squirrels. I’m not really sure what that says about us. I’ll leave that up to you.

I am going to resurrect some of that old material. And when I say old, I mean old. In November 2014, a tagged fawn reappeared as a teenager. It was cool to document one of our tagged deer living into her golden years. But a few months later, we got reports of 2 more teenage does tagged in previous studies. And 2 of the 3 were still alive. 

In 2021, I posted a tribute to our oldest known alumni, a doe whose minimum age was 16.5 years. She could get her driver’s license! 

Get ready for another sequel.

Three reports from 3 different areas in 3 weeks’ time. 

Let’s start with the baby of the group and the only deceased member. Captured as a fawn on February 13, 2013, she was one of 550 deer captured as part of a project to evaluate the survival and harvest rates of deer in the rifle and shotgun areas in Southeast Pennsylvania . On February 5, 2024, she was found less than a mile from her capture site in Green Lane Park, another victim of the road just a few months shy of her 12th birthday.

map of capture and mortality location

She probably crossed that road countless times in her life. We’ll have to ask Duane to calculate the probably of getting hit by a car. [Annually, about 5-7% of our collared deer get hit by a car – suggesting she had a 46-58% chance of getting hit over her 12-year life. I guess the odds caught up with her. DRD]

lower jaw of 12 year old deer

I contacted the crew leader to see if she might have any photos. After handling that many deer, photos just don’t rise to the top, but she did dig up this one. It is from the capture site when they were patterning the deer activity at the net. Is that doe fawn the same deer? She very well may be. 

4 deer standing under a drop net

Report #2 came one day later. This time from a gentleman who hunts in WMU 3C. He reported harvesting a buck with ear tags in 2012 but he called back to report another deer he has been seeing on his trail camera for the last 10-12 years. She is still wearing her VHF collar, but he has never been able to get a clear picture of her ear tag until now. Are you ready? She was captured in February 2009 as a juvenile. Which means she is coming up on her 16th birthday. She was part of a study investigating the biological and social effects of a 7-day concurrent season. He reports he has seen fawns with her most years including last year. 

doe with VHF collar in woods

Lastly and maybe the most exciting, the Northern Crew was getting photos of a deer with an old VHF collar at one of the Clover traps. On February 29th, she finally decided to step in almost 13 years to the day we caught her the first time as a fawn.

Doe with VHF collar at entrance of CLover trap

She was part of the same study as the previous deer in WMU 2G. Now she is adding data to the Deer Forest Study and sporting a fancy new GPS collar which means we’ll be able to get movement data on her. This year she’ll be celebrating her 14th birthday and 13th year as a research animal. 

doe with VHF collar standing at door of Clover trap

It is amazing to encounter these animals after so many years, but it has taken more than 20 years of trapping and tagging to do so. It speaks to the long-term commitment that the Pennsylvania Game Commission has made to better manage this public resource. In collaboration with the USGS PA Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit, these 3 studies have produced over 16 scientific publications, provided the science behind numerous management recommendations, supported 12 MS and PhD students for their thesis research, and given us this blog. Decades in the making and worth it. 

-Jeannine Fleegle
Wildlife Biologist
PA Game Commission

Please follow and share:
Visit Us
Follow Me