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My What Big Ears You Have!

Posted: June 19, 2015

At about a week old, it’s a coin flip as to whether a fawn will stay curled up on the ground when found or jump up and sprint off. Will our capture crews win the coin toss?

Fawn catching is pretty much over. Those little buggers are too fast for us now. It never ceases to amaze me how something so tiny and fragile can make us look so goofy and uncoordinated.

One of our last trips out was a perfect example. We were searching a field edge when someone quietly said "Fawn!" I stopped and looked his way. I caught sight of two ears in the grass.

"Those are big ears," was my first thought. The size of the ears and the fawn they were attached to made it clear – we were not going to walk over and pick this one up.

The fawn was alert and looking directly at his discoverer from its shaded hiding spot under an overhanging tree branch. Quickly assessing the situation, 2 of us got between the fawn and woods. Experience told us our only chance to catch those big ears was if we kept him in the field. The fawn's attention focused on the 2-legged predators guarding the wood line which gave me the opportunity to sneak in behind the fawn.

This plan was working splendidly until within steps of capture the fawn bolted out of his bed. Fortunately, for that brief moment in time, our sort-of-stealthy, 2-legged pseudo-predator (that would be me) had enough quickness and agility to make a dive worthy of the late-night highlight reel and get a hand on the fawn before he escaped. At least, that’s the way I’m telling it.

From the moment of capture, we had our hands full. The little buck bleated and kicked the entire time.

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Photo above: Chris Rosenberry (left) and Matt Adams fit the fawn with a radiocollar.

Photo below: Chris Rosenberry holds the fawn ready for ear tags.

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We worked fast fitting him with a radio-collar and some ear tags. We broke out the scale to weigh those big ears. When the squirming around in the sack stopped for a moment, the scale read 17 pounds! No wonder his ears were so big.

At birth, fawns weigh between 4-9 pounds depending on litter size and maternal nutrition. Most of the fawns we have captured are around 7-8 pounds.

With a healthy mother lactating an adequate quality and quantity of milk, a fawn can gain almost half a pound a day. After 2 weeks, they can double their weight. Healthy, well-fed moms produce healthy, well-fed, strong fawns (with big ears!). This may not seem like a big deal but lactation is very expensive energetically speaking – increasing energy demands of the doe by 3.5 to 5 times her basal metabolic rate depending on whether she is supporting a single fawn or twins.

Despite the rapid closing of the fawn capture window, some days a little luck (and some super stealthy and agile moves) tips the scale just enough that those big ears get some tags.

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-Chris Rosenberry, Supervisor
PGC Deer and Elk Section

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