PA Studies Fawn Survival

When officials in Pennsylvania decided to dramatically increase doe harvest, they also began extensive research on their deer herd. One study focused on fawn survival to analyze fawn mortality - — when and where fawns are vulnerable, and how many fawns live until the first hunting season. Two study areas were chosen. One was a totally forested area where many predators were found and hunting pressure was high. The second area comprised mixed farms and forests with fewer predators and with restricted hunting because of the private land.

Over a 2-year period, 218 fawns were radio-collared. Predators killed 49 of these fawns, of which coyotes took 37 percent; black bears 33 percent; and bobcats 6 percent. Much more predation occurred in the forested study area. Though predation was higher on one study area, overall survival rates on both areas were relatively similar. Fifty-three of the 96 fawns from the mixed farm/forest habitat survived to the first hunting season (51 percent), while 42 of 101 fawns from the forested habitat survived (42 percent). Other mortality factors such as starvation, disease, and vehicle collision were higher in the farm/forest habitat than in the totally forested area. Further analysis showed that habitat characteristics were not as important as numbers of predators.

From our March-April 2003 issue.

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