For as long as there have been white-tailed deer there have been predators that have relied on deer for food. Of course, before feral hogs (and European wild hogs) were introduced into Central and North America, that was one less predator whitetail had to worry about. Not so now days. Not only do feral hogs compete with native wildlife for food, habitat, and space, but hogs also have direct impacts on wildlife populations through predation and direct consumption. I have said it before regarding deer management and the impacts of whitetail predators–particularly coyotes–but deer populations can still thrive in the presence of healthy predator populations as long as high quality deer habitat is available.
However, even in the best habitat predators will have some impact on white-tailed deer populations. I think most landowners, deer managers, and hunters understand this fact. But even so, it can be difficult to sit back and wait for predators to do what they do best considering the time, energy, and money that landowners and hunters put into their property, leases, and deer management programs. It can be even more discouraging when such offenses are caught on camera. Such is the case with the attached photos that I recently received via email.
One web site reader, located in Schulenberg, Texas, sent me some great game camera photos that captured a whitetail doe giving birth to a fawn. The photos are interesting because hunters rarely have the opportunity to see a fawn being born, especially right next to a deer feeder and caught on a game camera. As you look through the photos below, the photo series shows the whitetail doe setting up in front of the camera, giving live birth to the fawn, and then cleaning up the newborn deer. All of this happens between roughly midnight and 3:30 a.m. in the morning.
Though these photos give us an idea of the amount of care and attention a whitetail doe gives a newly-born fawn, the real drama takes place shortly after 4:00 a.m. In the first photo below, you can clearly see that two large feral hogs arrive on the scene. Also, if you look very carefully, you can see that the spotted fawn is lying flat on the ground directly in front of the feral hogs. What happens next we will leave to imagination, although the outcome is very real–and we can only conclude that the hogs did kill and consume the 4-hour old fawn. The last photo shows a turkey vulture showing up on the scene to pick at the remains.
Food habit studies on feral hogs have often found white-tailed deer tissue in hog stomach contents, but there was also some debate on whether hogs killed deer or simply consumed them post-mortem as carrion. The take home story from this series of photos is that yes, newly-born fawns are susceptible to feral hog predation. Of course, it is during this time when fawns are very young that they are most susceptible to predators. The only remnants the landowner found of this fawn were some of the skin and a small portion of the skull cap. He concluded his email to me in this way:
“As far as viewing the pictures, it seems everyone that sees the sequence of photos has the same reaction: lots of oohs and awhs quickly followed by disgust and anger. But I guess life and death in the wild is never fair… it’s just about survival of the fittest.”
And a little bit of luck. Very young fawns are most susceptible to predation, but this is also why it is important that fawning take place over a relatively short time period. Tight fawning dates means whitetail fawns hit the ground simultaneously and predators only have limited access to them while they are most vulnerable. The length of the fawning period for your area is related to the buck to doe ratio. Anyway you slice it, there is a lot to consider when it comes to predators, even such as feral hogs, and deer management. Thanks to Michael Jurica for submitting these photos.