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The Roving Sportsman… It’s the Birthing Season

The cool spring days of rainy weather seem to evolve into warm rainy weather. The combination of warmer days, frequent showers, and occasional thunderstorms has produced taller grasses that will help hide newborn fawns from predation. The leaves in the hardwood forests are definitely more developed than in previous springs, providing great cover for newly born grouse chicks and turkey poults. Hopefully, this added cover will help yield a greater number of surviving new birds and mammals.

Springtime is when we all look forward to seeing the newborn fawns. They always seem to inspire such a great feeling of joy as we watch them interact with their mother in their first weeks of life. Their initial unsteadiness vanishes in just a few days as they gain strength and agility. It is not long before we can watch in amazement as they run back and forth helter-skelter with what seems like boundless energy!

But it’s that time of year when we need a gentle reminder. The reminder is that Mother Nature has things well in hand and doesn’t need interference from any well-intended humans.

In the next several weeks, young of all kinds will come into this world — from baby birds to those oh-so-cute fawns with their big brown eyes and beautiful white spots!

All of these magnificent young birds and mammals are wonderful to observe but need to be watched from a distance. If you get too close, the newly born or weeks-old young can panic — causing young birds to drop from a nest or young mammals to flee their hiding spot and put themselves in danger of predation. Take photographs if you want but do so from a distance to avoid putting the subjects in danger.

Probably the most encountered young of any species is the fawns of the whitetail deer. Their birth is underway and will continue for several more weeks. Spring gobbler hunters or those folks just out for a hike will have good odds of spotting one of these young deer — usually curled up and lying still to avoid predation. During the initial phase of a newly born fawn’s life, it has no scent. This helps prevent predation during this early phase while it develops the strength in its legs to (hopefully) outrun any predators that cross its path. By the time it develops its scent, it should have the strength and stamina to outrun anything that is looking at it as its next meal.

Among all its predators, the black bear takes more fawns every spring than any others. This is a fact that many have difficulty accepting, but studies here in Pennsylvania and other states support that fact. Those of you who spend time outdoors may have wondered why you have more black bear sightings this time of year. It is because they are out cruising fields and woodlots in search of fawns, and they will do so in daylight hours and nighttime.

On more than one occasion, I have witnessed this bear activity. Several years ago, I watched two large (about 300 pounds each) bears slowly sauntering across a fallow grass field, staying about 40 to 50 yards apart as they scanned their path in search of a fawn. I often wondered just how friendly or sharing they would be if their joint efforts produced a fawn and they were subjected to possibly sharing their discovery.

Additionally, I recall sleeping with my window open and rapidly sitting up in bed as I was awakened to the loud cry of a fawn in the early morning darkness as a bear must have discovered it. The thought of what must have been happening was not pleasant, but it was the reality of a typical act in nature.

What should you do if you encounter a fawn in the wild? First, understand that it’s not abandoned. The mother is likely nearby, observing from a safe distance. Once you leave, she will return to care for her young. So, take a moment to appreciate this unique sighting, but remember to keep your distance. The last thing you want is to startle the fawn and inadvertently alert a nearby predator!

If you are lucky enough to encounter a young bird or animal, appreciate the fact that you can make such an observation, enjoy this brief time of seeing something most folks never have a chance to see, and make sure that you “Look, But Don’t Touch!”