Have you ever wondered what happens to yearling deer when the mother doe goes into estrus?
QUESTION: I am of the understanding that does will run their fawns off as they come into estrus. If this is true, when do they let their fawns return after they have been bred? I have heard right away, and I have heard maybe not at all. From seeing so many does with fawns, I'm wondering where we are in the rut here in northern Arkansas. Thanks for any light you can shed on this. — Jim H.
ANSWER: Great question. It’s not entirely clear exactly what the mechanism is that separates a doe from her fawns during the rut. She might drive them off, but it’s more likely that a male suitor would do that, especially with the buck fawns. We’re also not sure whether that’s intentional or merely a result of the buck “cutting” a hot doe out of the group and separating her from all other deer. The pair often retreats to a secluded area, but we don’t know if it’s the buck leading the doe or vice versa. Either way, when you start seeing lone fawns or what I call rut orphans, it’s a good indication does are coming into estrus.
There are also many factors influencing if and when the doe and her fawns reunite. It’s not so much that she lets them return as simply meeting up again. Assuming the fawns remain in their natal home range, they’ll probably reunite as soon as the doe returns from her breeding hiatus, which could be within a day or two. If the fawns disperse, which is more likely for buck fawns, they may not join up again until later, when doe groups start to coalesce going into winter.
On a somewhat related note, yearling bucks typically disperse farther from their natal home range than yearling does. It’s quite common to see several generations of related does together, particularly in the fall and winter.
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