Whitetails in Spring Time
Spring is the season of new beginnings. The big event is the birth of fawns in late May or June. Triggered by increasing amounts of daylight, bucks begin to grow new antlers. Spring is a tranquil time when deer relax and replenish their bodies from the long, harsh winter.
Come spring, some whitetails must reacquaint with their environment. Northern deer begin the trek back toward their warm-weather range. This may take a few days or a few weeks. Deer usually inhabit the same winter and summer ranges all their life. However, favorable spring weather allows deer to explore and extend their home ranges.
Does and bucks must also readjust their social relations. Some deer didn't survive the previous fall and winter-they were shot by hunters, hit by cars, killed by predators or succumbed to harsh weather. Buck groups may find themselves without a dominant buck. Although they are passive during the spring, bucks still have ways of establishing dominance. Since bucks lack large, hard antlers, they use their front feet to spar with one other.
A few days before giving birth to fawns, does return to familiar fawn-rearing areas. Since does have some control over when they birth, they spend time looking for a suitable area away from predators. A doe occupies her secret spot for about 3 hours after dropping one or 2 fawns, giving the young time to associate with their mother. Fawns learn to walk and follow mama quickly.
Does are alert and aggressive as they protect their fawns. They ward off predators and even other deer. Does frequently leave fawns alone as they venture out to feed. If a fawn senses danger it utters a bleat or bawl. The mother comes running.
Deer enjoy a wide variety of foods in spring. Much of the foliage is rich in nutrients-a welcome change to the twigs deer were forced to eat the previous winter. The nutrients help replenish a deer's body. Pregnant does increase their food intake.
Deer also consume a large amount of salt during the spring. Why is not clearly understood. Some researchers believe that the increased nutrients in a deer' s diet cause a sodium loss through urination. Thus, deer replace it with salt.
Deer shed their thick winter coats in spring. This process is called molting, and it occurs again prior to winter. Molting is thought to be caused by many factors, including temperature and light.