It is springtime and the deer are here. In reality, they’ve been around and active all Winter, but with Spring brings a new generation of young fawns! Most baby deer, also known as fawns, are born from mid-May to mid-July reminding us that Summer is right around the corner. Many times we associate tenderness and vulnerability with young fawns, but in reality, from the moment they're born, they are true survivors. With the exception of nursing, fawns spend most of their time away from their mothers during the day until they are strong enough to keep up with the doe.
Unbelievably, these leggy little ones weigh in at four or five pounds when they’re born and can stand within 10 minutes. They are almost expert walkers in just 7 hours! As a reminder, it takes human babies anywhere from 9 to 18 months after being born to even think about walking. Strong legs and innate agility is one of the greatest defense mechanisms deer have against predators. As an adult, a white-tailed deer can run up to 30 miles per hour and jump nearly 8 feet into the air!
Despite being able to walk within 7 hours, fawns aren’t ready to keep up with their mothers for about three months. This means that they are left hidden on their own, usually in tall grass or bushes, but sometimes in backyards. The light brown coloring and white spots that imitate sunlight speckling a forest floor are excellent camouflage. Fawns born this Spring won’t get their adult coats until Fall 2020.
Not only are fawns essentially invisible to any predator, they are also almost completely scentless! That’s right, when a fawn is born, their scent glands are not very well developed, which makes them almost undetectable to coyotes and other predators who rely heavily on scent to track their prey. In order for fawns to remain odorless, their mother will eat their droppings and lick away their urine, which sounds gross at first, but it’s actually something that many animals will do to protect their young from predators and parasites!
Deer don’t remain odorless for their entire lives. When they are adults they use their scent glands to communicate! They even have glands in between their hooves and when threatened they will secrete a scent to warn other deer passing through that there was danger in the area!
As deer grow up, they lose some of the adaptations that kept them hidden as young fawns, but they still remain extremely stealthy and in tune with their environments. If you want to learn more about different deer adaptations, check out this article published by the Valley Forge National Historic Park as part of the National Park Service.
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