The Norman Transcript


April 26, 2013

Remove predators prior to fawning

NORMAN — Deer are the most intensively managed game species in Cleveland County. I work with countless landowners, hunters and land managers around the county and state, and most of the questions I receive are related to some aspect of deer management.

Whether it is estimating buck age or food plot questions, deer management is an exceedingly hot topic. One of the most common questions I receive is regarding predator removal to decrease predation on fawns.

Removing predators such as coyotes can benefit fawn recruitment in the short term and may be necessary in areas with low deer numbers or poor habitat. On the other hand, if you fail to harvest enough, does causing herd densities to exceed the carrying capacity of your property, coyotes and other predators may actually benefit your herd by helping keep deer numbers in check.

Many properties in northwest, central and eastern Oklahoma have deer densities at or above the habitat’s carrying capacity, coupled with skewed buck-to-doe sex ratios and a poor representation of mature bucks.

When deer herds like this are poorly managed, an increase in doe harvest by hunters, coupled with some predation on fawns, may help keep deer densities from reaching unhealthy levels.

Suffice to say, in some cases, predators are not always a hindrance to deer managers, depending on the situation and individual goals.    

While adult deer are occasionally killed by predators, fawns are a much more vulnerable herd segment. To understand when the greatest fawn threat exists, it is important to examine deer reproduction.

Does carry fetuses about 200 days and give birth in May and June across Oklahoma. This is the optimum time predators such as coyotes and, to a lesser extent, bobcats kill and consume fawns. Raccoons, feral hogs and dogs also will kill and consume newborn fawns if they stumble onto them during this time.

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