Mortality rates of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus (Zimmerman, 1780)) fawns have been quantified throughout North America. Few studies, however, have assessed cause-specific mortality of fawns after the first 3 months of life or during a severe weather event. During 2010-2014, we captured and radiotracked 93 fawns in southern and central Illinois and recorded 18 mortality events. In order of importance, survival rates were affected by days since capture, year of drought, age at capture, week post-capture (1/0 indicator), and region. Estimated overwinter (fall through spring) survival rate (± SE) of fawns in both regions during 2010-14 was 0.83 ± 0.04. However, estimated overwinter survival rates were depressed during 2012-13, following the severe drought of 2012 (0.63 ± 0.11 or 0.66 ± 0.11 depending on model). Main causes of mortality were capture-related and predation, though some dead deer also showed signs of hemorrhagic disease. We suspect that the extreme drought of 2012 created favorable conditions for fall-spring mortality of fawns, due to elevated disease transmission and lower forage quality and quantity for deer. In addition, drought may have contributed to predation by reducing abundance of alternative prey. Our results suggest that severe weather conditions during summer can substantially impact overwinter fawn survival.
Tosa, Marie I., Springer, Matthew T., Nielsen, Clayton and Schauber, Eric M. "Increased overwinter mortalities of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawns during a drought year." Canadian Journal of Zoology 96, No. 1 (Jan 2018): 55-61. doi:10.1139/cjz-2017-0009.