Congratulations to the new woodland parents
ESCANABA – Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. John Doe! You are the parents of a healthy, seven-pound, bouncing baby fawn.
The average healthy birth weight of the whitetail deer is seven pounds, the same as humans. Something that small, curled up on the forest floor, seems so vulnerable.
But that well camouflaged, helpless mound of speckles, given a good doe and a lush habitat, will kick-up its hooves and grow into a 120-pound doe or a 200-pound buck.
This year our fawn crop may be slightly challenged by low birth weight. That can be a huge problem in the whitetail world. Fawns have to be born big enough to walk immediately after birth, nurse strong, and hide well.
The long winter of 2012-2013 got off to a slow start, but by the second weekend of February, the snow was finally starting to pile up and it continued to accumulate until April. Deer are designed to need fewer calories in the winter, but by March their metabolism changes and they need more food.
The pregnant does especially need more nourishment. If they don’t get it, their fawns will be born small. Tiny fawns are easy prey for predators.
Deer watching is a favorite Upper Michigan pastime. Not jus
t in hunting season but all year round, outdoors people visit the whitetails like they were family members. If you are out there long enough with them, the does get pretty comfortable with you around in her territory.
From a non-threatening distance, you can see some pretty interesting glimpses of whitetail family life. Sometimes real deer life is very different than in paintings or books.
First of all, deer don’t cuddle their young. They don’t lie down together like a litter of puppies. In fact shortly after their birth, the doe separates the fawns. (They nearly always have twins) Mama Doe hides each baby some distance away from each other so that if a nosey predator comes by, he’s not likely to find both.
The proud doe tends her young from afar, never leaving them, always watching, listening and returning for frequent feedings and washings.
The young deer blend into the foliage and ferns. They communicate with sounds like, bleats, whistles and sighs.
Each mother deer has her own “fawning” territory. After the fawns nurse, the does coax them along on their wobbly legs to a new hiding spot. In just a few weeks the fawns are running and following the does on longer trips in search of good browse.
This spring, we should all give the deer a lot of space now that it is their fawning season. After the rough winter our deer herd my need a little boost.
If you do see newborn fawns in your neck of the woods, zoom in only with the camera and then be on your way. Mother deer are very protective of their young and now that there is a wolf population coexisting with the deer, does are very cautious of all canine.
They may appear gentle but does protecting newborns will go right after even large dogs and can do great damage.
Pass out the cigars, celebrate, the babies are here. The U.P. is one huge wonderful nursery.
Tread softly and share in the new life.
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of North Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.