It’s domino time for white-tailed deer across Texas. Does that were successfully bred last fall and winter usually give birth to their little ones in late spring or early summer, unless something bad happens to spoil the pregnancy.
The gestation period for deer is 7 months. Statewide, most Texas fawns hit the ground between mid-May and mid-July, depending on the geographic area. In eastern Texas, mid-May through mid-June is the peak fawning time.
“It’s already happening,” said Sean Willis, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist based in Lufkin. “I have already seen some pictures of does with fawns, some as early as the first part of May.”
Most does will have a single fawn on their first pregnancy, which usually happens at 1 1/2 years old. Twins are always a possibility after that, so long as the landscape is in good shape and the doe is physically fit.
Motherhood is beautiful thing in the deer woods. With no daddy around to rock the cradle, momma takes full charge.
Does are all about kids. Their maternal instincts are extremely clever.
When not nursing the fawn, the doe will bed down the youngster in a safe spot so she can venture off and find forage for herself before returning later. It’s not uncommon for a doe to leave her fawn unattended for several hours at a time while she seeks the nutrition essential for survival and continued milk production.
Though it might be perceived as a recipe for disaster for a mother to leave a newborn alone in the woods, in reality it’s not.
Fawns come into the world with built-in protection. They are born scent-free with tan-colored coats mottled with dozens of white spots to help them blend with the landscape.
Mother Nature’s camo makes it difficult for predators to detect them. The fawn’s natural instinct to lay low and still with its ears pinned back while curled up beneath a bush or in tall grass helps it hide and stay safe until mom comes back.
Leave them Be
Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of how things work in the wild. Humans occasionally cross paths with bedded fawns and can’t resist the urge to intervene. Each spring, many young deer are picked up and removed from their natural environment because they are believed to be abandoned, when in reality the mother isn’t far away.
It’s a well-meaning gesture that often results in a sad ending. For starters, it pretty much spoils any chance of the fawn being reunited with its mother. Plus, the now-orphaned fawn becomes totally dependent on humans to survive and will never learn the valuable lessons of the wild its mom would have passed on.
A healthy fawn that is wrongly plucked from the wild is almost certain to wind up on shaky ground. That’s baby deer demand special care that most people have no idea how to give.
At best, the deer will end up in the hands of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator whose facility may already be bustling with other animals. At worst, the fawn will get sick and die.
Bottomline is folks that scoop up fawns and take them home thinking they are doing the animal a favor usually aren’t doing the animal any good at all.
That’s not to say fawns can’t get into trouble out there. A fawn that is covered in fire ants or visibly wounded is likely in need of help.
If you do find a fawn in serious distress and want to do something to help it, contact a game warden or wildlife rehabilitator in your area immediately.
It’s never a good a good idea to take the deer home attempt to care for it yourself. It’s illegal to do so. Plus, a newborn requires a special diet, and store-bought milk is not part of it.
The same program applies to grounded fledglings, baby squirrels, raccoons, rabbits and other young critters. There are times when human intervention can help, but more often than not the best policy is to back off and allow nature to run its course.
TPWD maintains a list of licensed wildlife habilitators by county on its website, tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/rehab/list/.
Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, email@example.com