Young deer face a dangerous path to survival 

(Photo by Bob "Greenie" Grewell)

A few days ago, I decided to head to a local trout stream and cast some floating bug imitations in an attempt to fool any remaining trout that had been stocked into this waterway, plus any of the wild brown trout that call this mid-sized stream home.

I was following a dirt road that parallels a portion of the stream, heading to where I intended to park and begin fishing. At the parking spot, a farmer’s field sits on the opposite side of the earthen pathway. This year it’s a hay field, one that was freshly mowed.

I quickly noticed four black vultures feeding in the field, not far from where I parked. As I left my truck, I had a notion what they might be feasting upon. The birds scattered when I moved toward them, and when I reached the spot where they ate, my thought of what their food might be was confirmed. A fawn, most likely only a few days old, lay there in a rather unpleasant form.

I’m certain the fawn was the victim of a farmer’s mower, knowing only to remain still at this spot where its mother had placed it. It is a sad way to lose a wild animal.

Allow me to be up front concerning this scene; in no way do I blame the farmer. I call too many farmers friends, and know that they in no way enjoy the action of cutting into an unseen young deer — or any animal for that matter — when working a field.

The truth is, that their heavy workload requires them to perform all their tasks as quickly as possible if they wish to keep pace with fast-changing warm seasons and conditions.

High grass fields are magnets for does to hide a fawn until the newborn reaches an age where it is able to follow the mother. Depending upon whether a field belongs to a farmer, when the fawn is born and when the field is mowed — that all affects the chances for survival a fawn placed there has.

Most certainly, there are numerous other threats a young deer faces through early life before it even encounters its first hunting season.

There are diseases such epizootic hemorrhagic disease, chronic wasting disease, bluetongue, manage and deer warts. All can be deadly, and death a certainty with CWD.

Predators play a sizable role in deer demise also. Coyotes, bears and bobcats certainly kill fawns, with some outdoor minded people also believing fishers are capable — and sometimes do — kill fawns. Stray dogs kill both fawns and adult deer, wherever they may roam freely.

Once a fawn grows old enough to follow its mother, developing both speed and coordination in the process, it also faces the chance encounter with a moving vehicle when the mother crosses a highway, which does not end well.

Weather may also take a toll on a young deer, the following an example I personally witnessed. Following a heavy springtime cloudburst during a recent spring gobbler season, I once found a dead fawn — still warm to the touch — that laid at the end of a hillside drainage trench, the victim of a fast moving water flow that had drowned the young animal.

Fawns face many risks, a collection of hazards that may bring their demise before they even know that human hunters are dangerous, too. Try and remember that reality the next time you’re tagging a successful adult kill, and perhaps you’ll better appreciate what it took during the life of a deer to even be available for your happy moment.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Ron Steffe, Whitetail Deer

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