Every year I promise myself that I will not devote another installment of Naturespeak to deer and every year I break that promise over and over. I do not dislike deer (that much!) but feel that I’ve probably covered every angle of their existence. Well, true to form, I recently encountered yet another opportunity to break my “no more deer policy.” A frisky pair of White-tailed Deer fawns entered the Marshlands Museum yard the other day and began to romp around like puppies. I could not resist the chance to photograph these little fellows. I mean, come on – these are fawns we are talking about! Everybody loves Fawns (even coyotes).
A rainstorm was moving into the area under the accompaniment of bouts of rolling thunder. A doe and her two newish fawns ambled into the yard and lingered as the rain began to fall. Mom deer paused to browse on some dogwood, but her fawns were not about to pause for anything. Full of “piss and vinegar,” they started to run around in circles and engage in some serious deer play. The combination of rain and rumbling weather prompted them into this activity. They ran about for around 5 minutes before finally running out of steam.
Deer, of course, are born to run. In their natural state (you know, where there are natural predators) they are subject to attack from the minute they are born. For those born in the comfortable confines of a park or suburb, there are no real threats but time has yet to breed out the instinctive urge to run. After 200 days gestation, the does drop their fawns and within a week the young can out-run even the swiftest of predators. Adult white-tails can achieve top speeds of 36-40 mph and I’d bet the little ones also achieve this goal in short order. Through constant wind-sprinting and circle runs the fawns develop the necessary leg and lung power they will need for the rest of their lives. Some may call this play, but it is more like “working out.”
The speckled fawn pair, here pictured (see rapid-fire picture above and movie here) were probably about a month old. Though capable of nibbling on a few greens they still have another three months to go before they are truly weaned. So, while mom eats they run. These fellows ran about the open grass until reaching a point of exhaustion. You’ll see in the video that they were sucking air through open mouths and panting quite heavily by the time they were done. I only filmed their last dash (it took me three minutes to decide that I should break my “no deer rule” and get out the camera).
It is worth noting a few things, as long as we are on the subject. First of all, I’ve noticed over the years that rainstorms seem to electrify fawns. I have seen fawns dashing abut wildly just previous to, and during, a rainstorm. Secondly, fawns are basically scentless when first born. During their first week of life they spend a lot of time lying flat and helpless. Scent would literally be a dead give away to predators seeking tender venison (or venifawn, as it is called) at this time. Mom will even eat the fawn poop in order the keep the no scent zone active at both ends of her babies. It is safe to assume, however, that running fawns are no longer scentless since they now can escape. It is also assumed that mom no longer needs to eat their poop for the same reason. In other words, by the time the fawns get the runs the doe is relieved of her crappy task.