8 Myths About White-Tailed Deer Fawns

Don't Fall for the Fawn Hype

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap
Myth: Sibling Fawns Are Always Sired by the Same BuckMyth: Every Doe Has Two FawnsMyth: All Twin Fawns Are Identical TwinsMyth: Fawns Have No OdorMyth: Fawns Lie Perfectly Still When InjuredMyth: Touching a Fawn Will Cause Its Mother to Orphan ItMyth: Predators DonMyth: Age Determines Sexual Maturity of a Fawn

1 | Myth: Sibling Fawns Are Always Sired by the Same Bucks

When a doe gives birth to fawns, they aren’t always sired by the same bucks. In fact, it’s relatively common for does to give birth to two fawns sired by two different bucks. When does come into estrus, breeding parties often form — especially in areas with balanced sex ratios. This often results in subdominant bucks making it to and breeding receptive does before or after a more dominant buck does. In essence, does are often bred by more than one buck during its estrus cycle.

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Bob Garvine

2 | Myth: Every Doe Has Two Fawns

Not every doe has two fawns each spring. Sometimes they have one. Sometimes two or three. Extremely rare cases have even exhibited a doe giving birth to four fawns. While two fawns seem to be the most common, it isn’t always the case for every doe. And most fawns born each year don't reach maturity.

Photo credit: Josh Honeycutt

3 | Myth: All Twin Fawns Are Identical Twins

The vast majority of sibling fawns aren’t identical twins. They generally have their own set of genetic make-up. They aren’t the result of one egg splitting. Instead, two eggs are released from the ovaries and both become fertilized. It is possible for eggs to split and identical twins to be born. But this is fairly uncommon in the grand scheme of fawning.

Photo credit: Shutterstock / David Kay

4 | Myth: Fawns Have No Odor

This has long been believed as fact. Simply put, it isn’t. When coyotes hunt fawns, they use sight, hearing and smell to do so. But mostly, they use their nose. Unless feeding, fawns naturally lie perfectly still for the first two weeks of their lives. It’s a species-wide defense mechanism. That virtually eliminates both sight and hearing as a hunting tool for predators, meaning coyotes would have to use their noses to kill the majority of fawns born each year. The research shows that fawns do have an odor, blasting the age-old myth.

Photo credit: Josh Honeycutt

5 | Myth: Fawns Lie Perfectly Still When Injured

Fawns don’t lie perfectly still because they’re injured. They lie perfectly still because mother nature has weeded out all of the fawns who think they can outrun a coyote, bobcat or bear during the first two weeks of their lives. If you see a fawn lying perfectly still, do it a favor and walk the other way. Don’t bother it.

Photo credit: Josh Honeycutt

6 | Myth: Touching a Fawn Will Cause Its Mother to Orphan It

Most white-tailed does are great mothers and have incredible mothering instincts. The age-old myth that does will abandon fawns once you’ve touched them is a fallacy. If a fawn is in a high-risk location (soon-to-be-mowed hay field, roadside, etc.) wrap it with a towel and move it a short distance (no more than 100 yards) away to a safer location. It’ll reunite with its mother later in the day. On the flipside, never touch a fawn just because it’s cute and you feel like petting it.

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Fotorequest

7 | Myth: Predators Don't Significantly Impact Fawn Populations

This is the fallacy to trump all fallacies. According to the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), many states have very low fawn recruitment rates. The five states with the lowest fawn recruitment rates are Rhode Island (0.20), Oklahoma (0.30), Florida (0.40), Virginia (0.40), and Arkansas (0.41). Each of these states have increasing or stable coyote populations, too. The five largest declines in fawn recruitment from 2005 to 2015 were Illinois (-0.15), Maine (-0.16), Wisconsin (-0.24), Maryland (-0.24), and South Carolina (-0.29). The only state left with a rate over 1.0 is Kentucky, where predator populations haven’t completely skyrocketed (yet) and habitat is still good.

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Mirceac

8 | Myth: Age Determines Sexual Maturity of a Fawn

It’s a common belief that doe fawns become sexually mature once they reach a certain age. That’s not true. They become sexually mature once they reach a certain weight. Different doe fawns reach that weight threshold at different ages. That’s why approximately 50 percent of doe fawns in the Midwest breed their first fall and a much lower percent do in the Southeast. Better food and habitat allow most fawns in the Midwest to reach that weight much sooner.

Photo credit: Josh Honeycutt

Bonus Read: How Coyotes Killed Deer Hunting

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