doe looking at trail camera-May

This afternoon my wife, Lisa, took the dogs for a walk and swapped out camera cards. Of course, she peeked at them before I had a chance (kind of like opening my Christmas present!). When I sat down to go through the videos (way more fun than pics, by the way), she mentioned there were some videos of weird deer behavior.

Take a look.

It looks like someone is having a bad day. She is taking it out on the younger deer. Ears back and hooves thrashing – deer talk for she’s not in the mood and best not to be on the receiving end!

What on earth could be causing such a foul attitude? 

Behavior like this is often observed by our field techs when sitting over rocket nets in winter. Dominant deer will kick and chase lower-ranked deer over access to bait. But I guarantee there’s no bait in front of my camera and there’s plenty of natural food this time of year.

It may feel like early April but it’s in fact late May! Momma is getting ready for a big day. In less than 2 weeks, half of this year’s fawns will have been born.

We’re probably seeing an adult doe clearly telling other deer, including her offspring, that she needs some space. About 30-40% of button bucks will be dispersing over the next few weeks – some already have. Even some female fawns will be leaving home because of mom’s temperament.

Self-isolation. It’s not just for COVID-19 infected humans. Pregnant females tend to stay by themselves right before they give birth to fawns because it’s a strategy to maximize the chances of survival of their newborns.

Of course, I can’t say for sure that’s the reason for the behavior in this video. Maybe those fawns were just ticking her off or maybe she was just having a bad day. But if I could get DNA from each deer and determine their relatedness, I bet I could find evidence to support my explanation.

All winter I’ve been watching groups of bucks and doe traveling together. Now that fawns are starting to drop that communal behavior will be on hiatus for a while. 

Late-term does may be the only deer successful at social distancing.

-Duane Diefenbach

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