DEADWOOD, S.D. — South Dakota’s Game, Fish and Parks Department is studying the survival rate of white-tailed deer fawns for its third year.
Department officials attempt to place radio collars onto 150 fawns each spring to track survival rates, the Black Hills Pioneer reported. It requires the agency’s staff to capture fawns that are only days old, otherwise they can easily outrun humans.
The collars are designed to loosen as the fawn grows. The material will eventually rip off over time, so biologists track the deer’s survival during that first year. The department uses radio telemetry equipment to locate and reuse transponders.
The study has shown that about 66 percent of whitetail fawns survive through December.
“We’ll have that birth pulse and will have a percentage that die to predation within the first couple days,” said Chris Cudmore, a resource biologist with the agency. “Then about six weeks later we have another group of fawns get killed by predators.”
Coyotes are the main culprit, he said.
The department aims to secure the radio collar around the fawn’s neck and determine the animal’s sex and weight as quickly as possible, according to Cudmore. Taking too long could lead the baby’s mother to abandon it or put too much stress on the fawn, he said.
A deer’s temperature begins to rise once captured, which can cause brain damage, Cudmore said.
The study also helps the department determine how many tags to allocate for hunting seasons.
“We want to make sure we don’t increase or decrease tags too quickly,” Cudmore said.