Predators and Deer Management: Bobcat Kills Fawn

Bobcat Kills Deer Fawn on Game Camera

Bobcat Kills Deer Fawn on Game Camera

Predator control can be an integral part of a white-tailed deer management. Regulating predators should be a year-round activity on properties that are serious about the task, but it’s usually right about the time fawns start hitting the ground that hunters think about doing it. Limiting predators can work well when used hand-in-hand with other practices such as habitat management and supplemental feeding. Though there are many things looking to chow down on a deer, the “whitetail killer” that gets most of the attention is the cunning coyote.

They are smart. They do get a lot of attention from hunters, and for good reason. The coyote is the most abundant predator on the landscape with the ability to take whitetail, especially when they pack hunt. Case in point: Recall the article where a group of coyotes kill a whitetail buck on game camera? But as much attention as song dogs get, they aren’t the only game in town. Bobcats can also do a number on deer, especially when it comes to fawns. Continue reading “Predators and Deer Management: Bobcat Kills Fawn”

Whitetail Fawn Eaten by Feral Hogs

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.

Whitetail doe gives birth to a fawn

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.

Whitetail doe gives birth to a fawnWhitetail doe gives birth to a fawnWhitetail doe gives birth to a fawnWhitetail doe gives birth to a fawnWhitetail doe gives birth to a fawnWhitetail doe gives birth to a fawnWhitetail doe gives birth to a fawnWhitetail doe gives birth to a fawnWhitetail doe gives birth to a fawn

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.

Feral Hogs Kill and Eat a Whitetail FawnFeral Hogs Kill and Eat a Whitetail Fawn

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.

Deer Management and Thoughts on Predator Control

Game cameras are great for hunters and deer management because they allow 24-7 surveillance of trails, feeders, food plots, and water sources. Not only can motion-triggered cameras be used to collect valuable survey data for herd management, but they can also capture some amazing wildlife photos, such as this awe-inspiring photo of a mountain lion dragging a whitetail buck directly in front of a protein feeder and right in the path of a game camera. Although it’s a great photo that demonstrates why an unlucky hunter may not be seeing any mature bucks, the mountain lion is simply doing what it does best.

Game cameras really do capture some great wildlife photos, but not all of the time. In today’s high-tech world, anyone with a little bit of computer knowledge can splice together parts of several photos and fabricate a seemingly amazing photo. I received the above mountain lion and deer photo in my inbox at least every other day for a couple weeks now, so hunters and non-hunters apparently find this photo fascinating and are passing it around. So why do predators get so much attention? I think part of it is the mystique surrounding them. They literally kill for a living. The other reason is because we as humans love to place blame. So although I believe this photo of a mountain lion carrying a buck is fake (May 16 update: the photo is real), predator management as part of your overall deer management program could be very real. Should you attempt to control predators on your property?

A fake photo of a mountain lion with a white-tailed deer

In areas where good deer habitat exists, predators do not pose a serious threat to white-tailed deer populations. The only real exceptions include islands of good habitat–say 500 acres or less–surrounded by vast expanses of poor habitat and then high-fenced ranches less than 1,000 acres in size. Good habitat not only makes for healthy does, which increases fawning rate, but also provides excellent fawning habitat that promotes increased fawn survival. These two factors are critical to the recruitment of deer into the population, but good habitat will not make a difference if it’s only 200 acres surrounded by thousands of acres of poor habitat.

This is because the patch size of the habitat is important. Patch size is a biological term that refers to amount of available habitat. The smaller the patch size, the smaller the block of habitat, the more susceptible the patch becomes to the influence of predators. In the example above, the patch size of good habitat was 200 acres because it was assumed that the area surrounding it was not good habitat, as in areas over-grazed by livestock, huge bermuda fields, plowed fields, or wide open prairie. As the patch size decreases, the influence of predators of the deer population increases. In short, if there are 200 acres of prime habitat surrounded by nothing good for deer, then all of the deer and predators sink into that patch.

Now assume the patch size is 80 acres. It makes for easy pickin’ by predators. At some point the patch becomes so small that it does not function as habitat. A smaller patch increases the probability of predators encountering deer, particulary highly susceptible fawns. The same can be said about high-fenced or game-fence ranches, regardless of the habitat quality surrounding them. The issue with high-fenced ranches is that predators, such as coyotes, knowingly or unknowingly use the tall fences surrounding the property as funnels to corner deer. In low-fenced areas, deer can simply run away or run outside of the patch to safety. In high-fenced properties, deer are more prone to run down fencelines and, in a panic, continue to dart into the netwire fence and corners they can not jump.

As the size of a high-fenced property decreases, the percentage of the property that is near a fence line or corner increases. This means that smaller high-fenced ranches are more susceptible to high levels of predation than large high-fenced ranches. In addition, any high-fenced ranch is more susceptible to predation than low-fenced ranches surrounding it in the absence of predator control. This is only because taller-than-normal netwire fences impeed the escape of deer and increase the efficiency of predators.

With that said, high-fenced ranches have a greater ability to control predators than most low-fenced properties. The most notorious deer predator is the coyote because they are both numerous and crafty. Coyotes can go straight through barbed-wire fences, jump and climb 5-foot netwire fences, but 8 and 10-foot fences are a different story. As a result, coyotes can only go under high netwire fences. Slides, or locations where coyotes cross under netwire fencing, are easy to find and this makes them highly susceptible to traps, particularly snares. Smaller high-fenced properties are more susceptible to the impacts of predators on deer, but they are also easier to monitor and control.

To sum up, smaller ranches can provide good habitat that can sustain a white-tailed deer population, but smaller properties also require more intensive predator control, especially when surrounded by poor habitat. In addition, predators are easier to control on high-fenced properties because of limited predator access, but deer within ranches surrouned by tall netwire fences are very susceptible to predation because of corning. Supplemental feeding and food plots can keep deer healthy and help them grow bigger antlers, but good habitat and predator control, when necessary, can ensure that you have a deer to manage in the future.

Impact of Buck to Doe Ratios on Whitetail Fawning Dates

Past articles on this site have discussed buck to doe ratio more than once, but today we are going to talk about how buck to doe ratios impact subsequent fawning dates and recruitment of fawns into your white-tailed deer herd. Many factors can impact rutting or breeding activity, but most of the breeding takes place over a relatively short time in healthy deer herds.

Timing, of course, depends on latitude, local conditions, and a host of other factors, but year-in and year-out most of the rut takes place more or less over the same time each year in a given area. Though often overlooked, buck to doe ratio should be an important deer management consideration on your ranch.

In the previous paragraph, a “healthy” deer herd was mentioned and it was stated “most” of the breeding takes place at the same time, but what exactly does that mean? Well, a healthy deer herd would be one that is at carrying capacity for the habitat, has a buck to doe ratio of no fewer than 1 buck per 3 does, and all animals are in good body condition. With all of these parameters in place, it would be expected that majority of the breeding would happen over the course of a 10-day period, or even less.

Buck to doe ratio can impact fawning dates on your ranch

Ratios and the Rut

Why? Well as deer have evolved, the timing of deer breeding/rutting as become more constricted. A properly timed rut results in a high fawn survival rate and ultimately in the survival of the species. In some areas at northern latitudes, climate conditions can be extreme — so deer have adapted to a narrow fawning window.

If fawns are born too early, it can still be too cold. If too late, they may not have enough time to build up the needed body mass and energy needed to get through the winter. At southern latitudes, temperature is not as much of a factor, but it still plays a role for fawns born too early or too late.

Sex Ratios and Early Rut, Late Rut

So without getting into all the factors that can impact fawning dates right now, let’s talk about buck to doe ratios and how that effects the fawning season. White-tailed does come into estrus for only a day or two — usually in high numbers as if someone hit a switch. If they are not bred within that time, they will come back into estrus 28 days later. If there are not enough bucks to service all the does in an area, those does will not get bred until about a month later. If they aren’t bred then, it’s another 28 days. This explains what some people refer to as the “late rut.”

At this point you may be asking yourself, “What’s the problem?” Well, it’s true that deer populations with a high number of does per buck still have high breeding success (percent of does bred), but those deer herds don’t necessarily have good recruitment of fawns into the adult population. One reason can simply be because of habitat conditions.

Recommended Buck to Doe Ratio

If it turns out to be a dry spring, fawns that are born just one month later than expected may suffer some serious consequences, specifically regarding the available food sources for a doe to maintain herself, produce milk and raise fawns. If that timing ends up being 2 months later, then that may be well into the summer season and the odds of a doe raising those same fawns is much closer to zero.

In short, manage lands for a proper buck to doe ratio and it will help increase both breeding and fawning success. It’s recommended that there be no more than 3 does for every 1 buck, with the goal being 2 does per buck in most free-ranging deer herds. In the future, we will discuss some of the other factors that impact fawn survival and recruitment. Deer population parameters are closely intertwined, and the buck to doe ratio of your herd is much more than just a number.

Bobcat Attacks White-tailed Deer – Photos

Bobcat Attacks White-tailed Deer - Photos

Will a bobcat attack a full-grown white-tailed deer? Yes! And these game camera photos prove it. I’ve always figured that the biggest threat a bobcat could impose on a whitetail was while the deer was still a fawn, and I still believe this to be true. But maybe bobcats kill more deer than we thought. The bobcat is an effective predator, but the larger coyote takes more deer.

Bobcat Attacks White-tailed Deer - PhotosBobcat Attacks White-tailed Deer - PhotosBobcat Attacks White-tailed Deer - Photos

In these photos, you will notice that the deer is still battling the deer after two minutes have passed. This seems plausible considering the crushing power of bobcat’s jaw and incisors are really being put to the test considering the size of its prey.

Even a large bobcat at 25 to 30-pounds can only hope to physically wear down an adult deer while biting into it’s neck to increase blood loss. It’s a tough way to go, but nature is violent.

Although the bobcat wrapped up this doe, I suspect that a bobcat would not launch an attack on a larger-bodied, antlered buck. At least not one in a healthy condition. And the health of this doe was unknown when attacked.

Bonus bobcat photos:

Bobcat Attacks White-tailed Deer - Photos Bobcat Attacks White-tailed Deer - Photos Bobcat Attacks White-tailed Deer - Photos